I just got finished reading the 2-fer of Greg Bear’s sci-fi collection “Darwin’s Radio” and its sequel “Darwin’s Children.” Bear is known as a “hard” sci-fi writer in that his works hew very closely to science as we know it. Bear follows that model here as he spins a story involving viruses, the human genome and evolution not as a gradual process, but as one that occurs more in fits and spurts.
The books follow a handful of characters who soon find themselves – and the rest of the world – at a moment in time when humans spontaneously evolve. Humans start giving birth to another completely different species (52 chromosomes vs. 48) and how society deals with this is more that a little scary.
Overall, this is an interesting story, but the second book, published in 2003, seems at times constructed as a criticism of the Bush administration’s war on terror. The bad guys are mostly Christians and politicians with Rs after their names. The “good guy” politicians are aren’t identified by political party.
The most telling bit of evidence that Bear is dabbling in political commentary is a happenstance encounter where the main characters get a cab ride from a Pakistani American who talks with pride about his granddaughter who is a “new” human and lives in Peshawar, Pakistan. Somehow militant Islam was more understanding about these changes than American Christians.
After outlining plausible responses to this worldwide phenomenon, this discordant note just wasn’t believable.
Having noted all that, the stories are engrossing and keep you turning the pages.
Bear was my favorite author throughout the '90s. Brilliant extrapolation in books like The Forge of God, and Moving Mars. I've tried reading his latest stuff, but it's so much weaker that it just depressed me. Kind of like how William Gibson could never write Neuromancer now.