Darwin's Radio (Darwin Series #1)

Darwin's Radio (Darwin Series #1)

by Greg Bear

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Ancient diseases encoded in the DNA of humans wait like sleeping dragons to wake and infect again—or so molecular biologist Kaye Lang believes. And now it looks as if her controversial theory is in fact chilling reality. For Christopher Dicken, a "virus hunter" at the Epidemic Intelligence Service, has pursued an elusive flu-like disease that strikes down expectant mothers and their offspring. Then a major discovery high in the Alps —the preserved bodies of a prehistoric family—reveals a shocking link: something that has slept in our genes for millions of years is waking up.

Now, as the outbreak of this terrifying disease threatens to become a deadly epidemic, Dicken and Lang must race against time to assemble the pieces of a puzzle only they are equipped to solve—an evolutionary puzzle that will determine the future of the human race . . . if a future exists at all.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345435248
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/05/2000
Series: Darwin Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 277,302
Product dimensions: 6.88(w) x 4.24(h) x 1.13(d)

About the Author

Greg Bear is the author of twenty-four books, which have been translated into a dozen languages. He has been awarded two Hugos and four Nebulas for his fiction. He was called the "best working writer of hard science fiction" by The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. He is married to Astrid Anderson Bear. They are the parents of two children, Erik and Alexandra. Darwin's Radio is a 2000 Hugo Award nominee.

Read an Excerpt

The Alps, near the Austrian Border with Italy

The flat afternoon sky spread over the black and gray mountains like a stage backdrop, the color of a dog's pale crazy eye.

His ankles aching and back burning from a misplaced loop of nylon rope, Mitch Rafelson followed Tilde's quick female form along the margin between the white firn and a dust of new snow on the field. Mingled with the ice boulders of the fall, crenels and spikes of old ice had been sculpted by summer heat into milky, flint-edged knives.

To Mitch's left, the mountains rose over the jumble of black boulders flanking the broken slope of the ice fall. On the right, in the full glare of the sun, the ice rose in blinding brilliance to the perfect catenary of the cirque.

Franco was about twenty yards to the south, hidden by the rim of Mitch's goggles. Mitch could hear him but not see him. Some kilometers behind, also out of sight now, was the brilliant orange, round fiberglass-and-aluminum bivouac where they had made their last rest stop. He did not know how many kilometers they were from the last hut, whose name he had forgotten; but the memory of bright sun and warm tea in the sitting room, the Gaststube, gave him some strength. When this ordeal was over, he would get another cup of strong tea and sit in the Gaststube and thank God he was warm and alive.

They were approaching the wall of rock and a bridge of snow lying over a chasm dug by meltwater. These now-frozen streams formed during the spring and summer and eroded the edge of the glacier. Beyond the bridge, depending from a U-shaped depression in the wall, rose what looked like a gnome's upside-down castle, or a pipe organ carved from ice: a frozen waterfall spread out in many thick columns. Chunks of dislodged ice and drifts of snow gathered around the dirty white of the base; sun burnished the cream and white at the top.

Franco came into view as if out of a fog and joined up with Tilde. So far they had been on relatively level glacier. Now it seemed that Tilde and Franco were going to scale the pipe organ.

Mitch stopped for a moment and reached behind to pull out his ice ax. He pushed up his goggles, crouched, then fell back on his butt with a grunt to check his crampons. Ice balls between the spikes yielded to his knife.

Tilde walked back a few yards to speak to him. He looked up at her, his thick dark eyebrows forming a bridge over a pushed-up nose, round green eyes blinking at the cold.

"This saves us an hour," Tilde said, pointing at the pipe organ. "It's late. You've slowed us down." Her English came precise from thin lips, with a seductive Austrian accent. She had a slight but well-proportioned figure, white blond hair tucked under a dark blue Polartec cap, an elfin face with clear gray eyes. Attractive, but not Mitch's type; still, they had been lovers of the moment before Franco arrived.

"I told you I haven't climbed in eight years," Mitch said. Franco was showing him up handily. The Italian leaned on his ax near the pipe organ.

Tilde weighed and measured everything, took only the best, discarded the second best, yet never cut ties in case her past connections should prove useful. Franco had a square jaw and white teeth and a square head with thick black hair shaved at the sides, an eagle nose, Mediterranean olive skin, broad shoulders and arms knotted with muscles, fine hands, very strong. He was not too smart for Tilde, but no dummy, either. Mitch could imagine Tilde pulled from her thick Austrian forest by the prospect of bedding Franco, light against dark, like layers in a torte. He felt curiously detached from this image. Tilde made love with a mechanical rigor that had deceived Mitch for a time, until he realized she was merely going through the moves, one after the other, as a kind of intellectual exercise. She ate the same way. Nothing moved her deeply, yet she had real wit at times, and a lovely smile that drew lines on the corners of those thin, precise lips.

"We must go down before sunset," Tilde said. "I don't know what the weather will do. It's two hours to the cave. Not very far, but a hard climb. If we're lucky, you'll have an hour to look at what we've found."

"I'll do my best," Mitch said. "How far are we from the tourist trails? I haven't seen any red paint in hours."

Tilde pulled away her goggles to wipe them, gave him a flash smile with no warmth. "No tourists up here. Most good climbers stay away, too. But I know my way."

"Snow goddess," Mitch said.

"What do you expect?" she said, taking it as a compliment. "I've climbed here since I was a girl."

"You're still a girl," Mitch said. "Twenty-five, twenty-six?"

She had never revealed her age to Mitch. Now she appraised him as if he were a gemstone she might reconsider purchasing. "I am thirty-two. Franco is forty but he's faster than you."

"To hell with Franco," Mitch said without anger.

Tilde curled her lip in amusement. "We are all weird today," she said, turning away. "Even Franco feels it. But another Iceman ... what would that be worth?"

The very thought shortened Mitch's breath, and he did not need that now. His excitement curled back on itself, mixing with his exhaustion. "I don't know," he said.

Table of Contents

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Darwin's Radio (Darwin Series #1) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 83 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this book several times. Greg Bear is great at the hard science thriller. His books generally start slow but build with intricate storylines that are unique and well planned. This one is about an endogenous retrovirus nicknamed SHEVA reactivating and bringing about hysteria when it causes apparent miscarrages that ultimately result in a wave of punctuated equilibrium. It's a very interesting read. I highly reccommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Basically, I thought the book was pretty good. The plot kept me interested, making me want to read more and discover what was lurking around the corner. I did however, feel that it took a little too long for Bear to illustrate the implications and problems of having a 'special' child born in a world of ignorance and fear. Other than that the book overall was really interesting, I learned a lot about genetics, the human cell, and how retroviruses worked. If your a biology fan you will definitely enjoy this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Darwin¿s Radio is a pleasure for someone who loves hard science fiction, as I do. Here¿s the premise: SHEVA, a retrovirus long-buried in our genes, suddenly awakens and begins to attack pregnant women, forcing them to miscarry after three months. But that¿s just the beginning ¿ after the miscarriage, these same women spontaneously become pregnant again, this time developing a fetus that¿s not quite human. The federal government, led by the science establishment, after first denying the truth, then begins pressing parents to turn over their strange children to the government. This premise just blew my mind; it¿s creative, believable and terrifying. The science was complex and I referred to the glossary, included at the back of the book, several times. As I progressed through the pages, I was reminded of Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress¿s wonderful story. Both novels explore the rapid evolution of humanity into another species, although Greg Bear, unlike Kress, makes humanity involuntary travelers on the journey. My major complaint is the slow pace. Too much time was spent on a romance between the two major characters. Even more frustrating was the endless politics between and among the scientific community and their patrons. Although Darwin¿s Radio is science fiction and not a techno-thriller, more action ¿ yes, a little violence, too ¿ would have strengthened the brew. The bottom line: a slightly flawed but thought-provoking tale.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had never liked reading any type of book, but I have been searching for an author that peaks my interests. Darwin's Radio was the first book that I have read, one of the over 90 books, that has provided such a revolutionary idea on the processes of evolution. The story-line that accompanied the theory presented also brought a compelling and absolutely exciting anticipation for each new event. I declared this book my favorite book within the hours it took me to read it. The sequel, Darwin's Children, is also fantastic continuing the great story fabricated by Greg Bear.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this up based on the recommendation of the Hugo Award. The author did a great job unfolding all the scientific information leading up to his climax. Good character interactions. My only criticism is in the length. At times the action took so long to unfold that I was bored. The editor needed to do a better job. It could have been tightened up a lot and the pace of the action quickened.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Darwin's Radio' is a complex, well-written thriller with some realistic characters. I thought the actual way the disease manifests itself a bit contrived (more complicated than nature would really devise), but the book was gripping throughout.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've always enjoyed Bear's work, but he seems to be getting better with each book. This one is about SHEVA a old but new virus that attacks humans and forms an evolutionary new type of offspring, maybe the future of human kind. Bear has just enough science and virology as to not make it sound like a science exam. He makes you care about the characters, expecially Kaye Lang and MItch. There is room left at the end for a sequel, but Bear manages to tie things together at the end. The nice little primer at the end of the book was a nice touch. I bought this book in hardcover and it was worth every penny. Bear just keeps on getting better and better and unlike most other science fiction writers, he is not afraid to tackle new ground. Thanks for a great and enjoyable read.
dreamweaversunited on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Maybe it's just because I'm an evolutionary biologist, but this book stretched my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. When something unbelievable happens in a science-fiction book, the author can take one of two approaches: either quickly handwave it with technobabble and move on to focus on the consequences of the event, or foreground the explanation based on reasonable extrapolations of current science. The author tried to do the latter, but his "explanation" made all the sense of a handwave.I also found the author's attitudes toward women, particularly the bodily autonomy of women, to be troubling. What happens to the women in this story is a violation of their bodily autonomy: they become pregnant against their wishes. Being disgusted and horrified by this pregnancy is a perfectly normal and understandable reaction. However, by the end of the book, the women who are frightened and repulsed by their unwanted pregnancies and the offspring created of same are vilified, while those who embrace pregnancy and motherhood are celebrated. Not to mention that the children produced by these pregnancies, who are supposed to be yay and wonderful and the next step in human evolution, are just plain creepy.
Mockers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Unutterable tripe, premise pretty good but very poorly written. Almost as if he could smell the movie deal.
pauliharman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't care about the iffy biological science; Bear's Darwin books are an enjoyable read with a great cast of characters.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don¿t think this one was quite as good as Blood Music, but it kept me pretty interested. Only the end was slow moving and kind of an anti-climax.¿The mass grave in the Republic of Georgia contains men and women of median age and all the women are pregnant. They test positive for SHEVA.The renegade anthropologist is Mitch and eventually it¿s discovered that the Neanderthal family also had SHEVA. But this is only way after SHEVA is running pretty rampant in the US and other parts of the world. Men carry SHEVA but rarely show symptoms. Women on the other had, have lots of symptoms. Most of them are like flu symptoms but the worst is that SHEVA causes pregnant women to miscarry. But it¿s a weird fetus that is expelled ¿ not right at all. There are obvious deformities and most of them have more than the normal 46 chromosomes. Some autopsies are done and it¿s discovered that the fetuses are little more than ovaries and fallopian tubes. All of them have ovulated.This solves the mystery of how the women who miscarry become pregnant so quickly and without benefit of sex. The first daughter leaves behind a granddaughter.At first none of these second babies come full term either. They get diseases in the womb that normal babies are protected from. They sometimes have deformities of their own and the government is convinced this is a disease.But Kaye and some other scientists figure out that the retrovirus isn¿t acting like a disease. Nothing it produces is consistent enough. They formulate that the virus is released from `hibernation¿ when the population is stressed. It triggers changes and blocks off normal human reproduction in order to produce altered children. In other words ¿ evolution. A sub-species change. It happened before when Neanderthal couples began to have more modern children, and it is happening again.In the end, the government tries to sequester all SHEVA mothers and quarantine them like they were disease carriers. Then when the 2nd stage pregnancies start coming to term and the children stay alive and aren¿t grossly deformed, they want to round up the kids and put them in labs. By this time, Kaye and Mitch have hooked up and she is pregnant. Her first fetus self-aborted as usual, and her 2nd baby seems to be doing well.This is when things start to come apart. Bear up to this point had been going back and forth between differing points of view. Now he drops a lot of that and only focuses on Kaye and Mitch. It kind of sucks because a lot of the new regulations are coming from a guy named Mark Augustine who is Surgeon General and head of the Centers for Disease Control. He and leaders from the National Institute of Health are treating it like a disease and it¿s clear that Augustine plans to eliminate all people of power between him and the President. This is dropped though and we don¿t really see how far he gets. Pretty far though since Martial Law is in place and the parents and children are being rounded up like Jews in Germany around 1935.It ends with Mitch and Kaye on the run with their daughter Stella Nova. The new species of human now has melanophores on their faces ¿ spots of skin that can change color like a cuttlefish and their tongues have also changed to accommodate a new speech pattern. They as parents have been rewired to deal with the communication needs of their new daughter. They have the same melanophores and both have to wear makeup to get by in the world. If they¿re caught, they get sent away to labs.Until the end broke down, it was interesting to hear the scientific debate and see how information spreads within the community of scientists. At first, there were huge fights including fistfights over the Neanderthal couple. When it was proved that the baby was genetically theirs, people flipped out. The assumption and almost divine law that evolution is a very gradual process was completely turned inside out. It was obvious that it doesn¿t work that way because no `mis
kettykat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What sets this wonderful book apart from others of the genre more than any other factor is the fact that it carefully explores the social implications, even the long-term ones, of a biological crisis. I look forward with high anticipation to other titles by this author.
texicanwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Darwin's Radio is a superb case of a writer doing thorough research to write a technologically advanced novel. Probably the best I've ever seen for fiction! However, the average individual, with only high school chemistry and biology would be lost within the first few pages of advanced bio-genetics and molecular biology! A more simplified truth may have captured an audience earlier rather than later, which is what this book does. The average individual will find themselves bored through the first half, but by the middle of the book the story is beginning to take shape. Unfortunately, the shape is easily recognized. An almost cookie-cutter-like storyline that one can easily predict the outcome of.I praise Bear for his research, however, the story-telling was a bit lackluster for my personal taste. The premise, however, of another evolution in the future, makes for a great group discussion for book clubs!
Karlstar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Similar in some respects to Blood Music, this is Bear's take on the next step in human evolution. What if something could trigger evolution to happen in a generation, and not over a long period of time, how would we react to the next generation of humans, and how would they react to us? An excellent exploration of society and how something so extreme could change it.
mzonderm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There is a lot of hard-core science in this book, far more than was probably necessary. I got the basic idea, but a lot of the exposition bogged me down. Still, the explanations for the biology seemed good, and were realistically included, usually in the context of a scientist explaining something to a politician. But since there were a lot of politicians involved, there was a lot of explaining that needed to be done. So, in addition to trying to figure out all the science, one also has to keep track all of the politicians. Between the two, this book was a little overloaded.The premise is a really interesting one, though. What if evolution isn't as gradual as we think? What if it can happen in great leaps. What are the consequences? How do we react as a civilization? What is the role of the government? What is the role of scientists? Greg Bear tackles all these questions ably while telling a compelling story.
ErisQuibbler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very interesting look at what would happen if humans evolved. The science was plausible, and while I'd hope for cooler heads, the public reactions were plausible too. I found the characters to be realistic ¿ even the `evil¿ guys had good motivations.I enjoyed the mystery at the beginning over the individual reactions at the end. The ending was a bit disappointing ¿ clearly this was written with a sequel in mind.
macha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
engrossing story, well put together, and i'll look for the sequel too. i had a lot of trouble buying the central figure as a character, though, and inasmuch as i did she pissed me off. i think maybe she got dented while being shoehorned into the plot at various points, and sustained too much permanent damage.*g* cause she too often acted and thought like the complete idjit she clearly wasn't supposed to be. which impacted on other characters in her vicinity, and on the believability of the whole story.
geertwissink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Biotechno thriller set in the first years of the new millenium. Story takes soms detours along the way and ah awful lot of explaining is done about biogenitica. In the positive sens this means I got the feeling I actually learned something reading this book.
Audacity88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The genre provided for Darwin's Radio on the back of this edition's cover is not Science Fiction, but Suspense. As someone who likes the former and dislikes the latter, I found this categorization accurate. [Note: I've only read the first 100 pages of the book, so it's possible that I'm being too quick to judge.] Its central theme is not the exploration by a character of his world and himself - as in SF - but the unfolding of a menace, as seen through rather interchangeable characters of the world-traveler type. If this is science fiction, it's of the Michael Crichton sort - but less immediately intriguing that that author's novels.
aarondesk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A little disappointing. For a Nebula winner I was expecting more. The first half sets up some drama as the race to find out what this new virus is all about occurs. The clash between the government bureaucrats and their opposition particularly adds tension to the plot. Unfortunately the second half of the book just drags on. I kept expecting something interesting or new to happen, but nothing does.The book has some interesting ideas, but I think the author could have developed them more. The hackneyed tropes (big bad government, intelligent scientists vs ignorant masses, etc.) were a turn off to me.
DrBrewhaha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Darwin's Radio is yet another outbreak story. While the outbreak does have more connection with the evolution of the human species than it does with a species-destroying disease, it follows the basic pattern - outbreak occurs, scientists come to the rescue, lesson learned. The story seemed to get bogged down in the science and sometimes read more like a text than a novel. The characters weren't that engaging and, in the end, the story ended in a fizzle. I would like to see if other novels by the author are any better.
markon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anthropologist Mitch Rafelson discovers the mummified bodies of a Neanderthal couple and their strange newborn. Molecular biologist Kay Lang has unearthed evidence that ¿junk DNA¿ may have a role to play in evolution, but is having trouble persuading her colleagues her conclusions are valid. Virus hunter Christopher Dicken is trying to discover the source of an illness that strikes pregnant women and their fetuses. Mark Augustine, of the Center for Disease Control, is trying to manage public reaction and advise the US government of how to respond.And then the women who have lost their babies become pregnant (often without having sex), and their children are born with motor and language skills far in advance of ¿normal¿ humans.Is evolution a gradual process, or can its changes sometimes be abrupt? Do retroviruses have a role to play in evolution? What might happen if evolutionary changes were triggered by a virus?These novels are well worth reading for the science they explicate. The public and governmental response may strike some as over the top, but I think they are plausible. While this is billed as a scifi thriller, it is not an action novel, but an ideas novel. I found it gripping, but if you love action, you may hate it. Since it is told from the point of view of at least three people it seems disjointed at times. Darwin¿s children is even more disjointed, and explicates the societal response over time.
LMHTWB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Darwin's Radio is a science fiction story about how humans evolved and how they might evolve in the future. It is also a story of how our government might react to both an epidemic and science it does not agree with.This is one of the best science fiction stories I have read in years! The characters are real, well-rounded, and interesting. The plot moves along nicely with no longer 'lectures' on the genetics involved and is (unfortunately) very believable. The writing is tight and clean.I did have two tiny problems with the book. First, the characters, such as Christopher Dicken, are referred to through the first third of the book as 'Dicken' and then is suddenly referred as 'Christopher'. It took a few rereads to sort out whose last name went with the first. Second, the transitions from one chapter and point of view to the next chapter and point of view were too abrupt for my tastes in several spots.Overall, wonderful!!! I will reread it again, once I've forgotten some of the plot, and now I can't wait to read the sequel.
bibliojim on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Darwin's Radio is the novel most firmly-based on modern science that I've ever read which puts forth a theory on how evolution to man may have occurred. Greg Bear's acknowledgements in the back credit conversations with numerous scientists. I was in molecular biology in grad school, and I was amazed at the advanced level of knowledge shown in this book. How can an author gain such an informed knowledge of such a difficult subject without becoming a molecular biologist himself? But Greg Bear did it, to write this book.The theory Greg Bear puts forth is not supported as "the truth" by the scientists he talked to, he says; but it is a fascinating supposition, and the scientific details are valid and the theory consistent with knowledge at the time of publication.Besides having my mind opened to a remarkable interpretation of biological science to explain how evolution may occur in leaps and bounds rather than in one tiny incremental change in some one individual at a time, I was amazed at the skill with which the author wove the science into the text so as to allow the characters who live the story to live and breath as very real and sympathetic people. There is no subverting of characterization in the interest of scientific or technological exposition, which is something that commonly turns me off in science fiction. A good book has to be about people under stress with serious problems to solve, and Darwin's Radio is certainly this! I found most of the characters to be written with great imagination and understanding of human nature.This SF novel is unique in my reading experience in its treatment of current progress in biotechnology as the means to understand the evolution of mankind rather than a poorly understood excuse for all sorts of imagined future physical enhancements. If the book has a drawback - which I have to admit it does - it is that the science is so truly a part of the book that people without any college courses in biology or genetics would probably find it difficult. My brother, an engineer but without the biology background, did. The author added a glossary to the back of the book, but it's probably not enough to make it easy to read. But there's nothing wrong in learning some actual facts while you lose yourself in this fascinating book!The novel was awarded the Nebula Award for Best Novel after it came out. I found it mind-blowing, and in my opinion this book should be recognized as one of the best ten works of science fiction of all time.
PortiaLong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Biothriller set in the near future. Government response to perceived threat was chillingly realistically scary. Loved the biological thesis and the weaving of disciplines in this book. How would we respond? What would our govenment do? How quickly could the scientific community abandon what it thinks it knows in the face of new evidence?A few negatives: Some of the scientific explanations were a bit tedious and they sub-plot regarding her husband's business dealings seemed not really vital to moving the story along; it added too much unnecessary intrigue and failed to provide enough insight to flesh out the personal side of the story. The politics vs science theme was pretty well done but might have been even MORE effective if some of the "villians" were a little less stereotypically beaurocrats.Overall though a very, very good book. Strong recommend - especially for anyone with an interest in biology/genetics/evolution or biomedical ethics.