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Darwin's Radio (Darwin Series #1)

Darwin's Radio (Darwin Series #1)

3.9 53
by Greg Bear

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“Virus hunter” Christopher Dicken is a man on a mission, following a trail of rumors, government cover-ups, and dead bodies around the globe in search of a mysterious disease that strikes only pregnant women and invariably results in miscarriage. But when Dicken finds what he’s looking for, the answer proves to be stranger—and far


“Virus hunter” Christopher Dicken is a man on a mission, following a trail of rumors, government cover-ups, and dead bodies around the globe in search of a mysterious disease that strikes only pregnant women and invariably results in miscarriage. But when Dicken finds what he’s looking for, the answer proves to be stranger—and far deadlier—than he ever could have imagined. Something that has slept in human DNA for millions of years is waking up.

Molecular biologist Kaye Lang has spent her career tracing ancient retroviruses in the human genome. She believes these microscopic fossils can come to life again. But when Dicken’s discovery becomes public, Lang’s theory suddenly turns to chilling fact. 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.

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Random House Publishing Group
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Darwin Series , #1
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Random House
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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.

From the Paperback edition.

Meet 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.

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Darwin's Radio (Darwin Series #1) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 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.
RKBookman More than 1 year ago
Darwin’s Radio and Darwin’s children are two books I go back and read every couple of years. While the idea of our genes deciding we, as a species, need to change to survive is intriguing, the negative reaction of the government and the scientific community is riveting and exceptionally well-drawn. Though a few characters can see that the pregnancies and birth of the new children is an ongoing process that needs to be completed, the rest are determined not to allow the new children to survive or become part of society. The characters range from courageous and determined to self-interested, bigoted and even cruel, but they are all well drawn. Most grow over the course of the books. One review claimed the author did not show how the new children would save (or improve) the human species and that is true of the first book. However, by the end of Darwin’s Children it is clear how they could make the world a better place if everyone willing to allow them to participate in society.
Reader_4life More than 1 year ago
It would have rated 3 stars for anyone else. Having read EON and other of his stories, I expected something better. Greg is a talented writer and a good researcher, but this whole book tried to cast plausibility with long narratives to impress, I suppose, the lesser educated. His research into genetics should have been better used. The story line was formula driven. I wasn't impressed nor excited about any of this. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so disappointing. It could have been so good-- lots of hard science, and interesting tale of human evolution-- and it completely failed to deilver. The characters were unlikeable and their motivations were alien. Not to mention the second half of the book, quite frankly, made me want to throw it. Way to show female scientists everywhere that their real job is having babies, just like all other women. Because that's what they're there for, after all. The second half of the book was just horrid. I almost would have enjoyed this book more had the first half not been so promising; at least if it was bad all the way through I could have gotten some of the "so terrible it was fun" enjoyment. But I finished this book with a sense of being hugely let down and no desire to read the sequel. However, I will say that Bear clearly did his research.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Akala More than 1 year ago
I once heard baseball described as a long period of boredom interrupted with infrequent bursts of activity. That might apply to this book. He had a potentially excellent story line, but should have read Crichton and Cook about how to deliver it. It rambled on with long, insignificant narrative. It unfortunately also left the reader with no idea how the whole thing started, and, even worse, ended in mid-air.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
James Costello More than 1 year ago
Interesting story. Some of the characters and situations are canned. But the big flaw for me is not explaining HOW the appearance of new genes, how the changes that they manifest actually help cope with the stresses than humans are undergoing. When you set that as a premise, you should follow through. The mutation uncovered at the end doesn't. It seems arbitrary.
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