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Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio and Darwin’s Children

Here I sit at 9:40 in the morning, enjoying my summer holidays. The sounds on the street are the normal sounds in my little neighborhood: kids hollering at one another in Korean; cars honking; cicadas buzzing out their deafening symphonies. I bite into my breakfast, a scone (still a little frozen, but enjoyably so) and drink my coffee, coffee my girlfriend gave me, coffee from Canada that has somehow been made to taste like chocolate and raspberries.

And I all I can imagine is, what if all this normality was just a very short-term thing? What if it was something that had to get interrupted, by nature, every so often? What if normality suddenly fell apart from within ourselves, and everything changed?

I’m thinking about these things because I just finished reading a book that is all about the very same questions.

It’s actually a bit wrong of me to review both of these books in one go, not only because I actually finished reading the latter only minutes ago, and the former a good year ago. But I am fairly certain that the best way to look at these books is together.

I remember when the first book came out, that I was still, though beginning to ease away from it, subscribed to a mailing list where people discussed the work of certain hard-sf authors, including Greg Bear. I remember a neurologist going on at great lengths about why what Bear had written was simply impossible. “Human evolution doesn’t, and can’t, work in that way…” was the gist of what he’d said. Or, rather, “It’s just too improbable.”

I’m not a scientist, so I wouldn’t know what in the book is or isn’t probable. I do know that when I am not in the know of the complexities of something, then a skilled writer can make just about anything sound probable. However, there are a few things I want to note that this book does wonderfully:

In any case, this pair of novels together constitute one of the better works of modern SF that I’ve read. Bear grapples with so many of the questions that I think are crucial now, and he does it in a very interesting, informative, and entertaining way. I recommend these novels wholeheartedly.

Next on my reading list? I’ll finish those books which I’m only halfway through (Thoreau’s Walden and V.S. Naipaul’s The Writer and The World: Essays. I’d also like to finish reading The Watchmen, my one and only English-language graphic novel. After that, back to text-only novels for a bit, and I think it’ll be one of the SF books I got in Toronto. Maybe Vurt.

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