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(Feb 13, 2007)
Blood Music, by Greg Bear
Most of us live our lives unaware of the actions of the approximately 100 trillion cells that exist in our bodies. Every cell has their specific job, with a specific set of instructions. What if your cells woke up one day, and starting rewriting their own instructions? Started rewriting you? And what if your cells ďwoke upĒ due to your own fouled up lab experiment? How could so much trouble be caused by something so small?
Iíve never read Greg Bear before, and I have no idea why. If Iíd know his stuff was this addictive and disturbingly frightening, I would have starting reading him years ago. Blood Music is almost Michael Crichton-esque in itís addictive, edge of your seat, fast paced run, however itís nicely balanced with hard science, creepy biological viruses, flavors of cyberpunk and bio-artificial intelligence, and an even creepier view of a possible evolution for humanity. Blood Music is also a Nebula and Hugo award winning novel.
Almost by accident, biologist Vergil Ulam creates ďbiologicsĒ: smart cells. At first, their thinking is far from complicated, and he is fired from his lab job for unethical practices. Antisocial and attached to his experiement, Vergil saves the organisms by injecting them into his own body. But how smart are they? How smart will they get? Can he control them? What will they do when they realize he isnít a god, that he isnít the end all be all of the universe?
The biologic virus quickly spreads by touch, and soon is airborne, effecting most of the United States. At first, the biologics quickly kill most of the infected, until they learn how to rebuild us to their own specifications without killing us in the process. Because they do learn, they do evolve, and humanity has no choice: we are outnumbered one hundred trillion to one. The potential of the biologics is nearly unlimited.
Another biologist, Michael Bernard unwittingly inherits Ulamís experiment. As the borders to North America are being closed, Bernard escapes to a lab in Germany where he volunteers himself as a guinea pig. At first they try to kill the virus with tanning lights. Then the biologics begin to talk to Bernard: they do not want to die, and they are able to communicate with all other biologics on the planet.
Blood Music is cellular biology gone horribly wrong. Or perhaps not wrong, but merely different. The biologics learn to rebuild every body they have broken down, and people are built better and stronger, with no more allergies, and no more illnesses. Isnít that a good thing? Isnít what they are giving up worth it, to be a stronger human? Isnít evolution all about survival of the strongest and best?
A rather vague conclusion is partly a letdown, but partly an invitation for the readers imagination to fill in the blanks. As the virus crosses the globe faster and faster, I do wish their had been more details on exactly what it was doing, and how, especially while it is breaking down buildings faster than it is breaking down people. If Bear hadnít wrapped the ending up so quickly and neat and tidy, I probably would have given a higher rating.
Bear does a find job of explaining complex cellular biology in laymanís terms which was nice, it allowed me to enjoy the story and the action without tripping over biochemistry jargon. If you enjoy scifi action/suspense that takes place in the present time, Blood Music is time well spent. This book was published in the early 80ís, and I can think of quite a few tv shows and movies that ripped off at least one idea from it.