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Greg Bear’s Nebula Award–winning novel, Darwin’s Radio, painted a chilling portrait of humankind on the threshold of a radical leap in evolution—one that would alter our species forever. Now Bear continues his provocative tale of the human race confronted by an uncertain future, where “survival of the fittest” takes on astonishing and controversial new dimensions.
Eleven years have passed since SHEVA, an ancient retrovirus, was discovered in human DNA—a retrovirus that caused mutations in the human genome and heralded the arrival of a new wave of genetically enhanced humans. Now these changed children have reached adolescence . . . and face a world that is outraged about their very existence. For these special youths, possessed of remarkable, advanced traits that mark a major turning point in human development, are also ticking time bombs harboring hosts of viruses that could exterminate the “old” human race.
Fear and hatred of the virus children have made them a persecuted underclass, quarantined by the government in special “schools,” targeted by federally sanctioned bounty hunters, and demonized by hysterical segments of the population. But pockets of resistance have sprung up among those opposed to treating the children like dangerous diseases—and who fear the worst if the government’s draconian measures are carried to their extreme.
Scientists Kaye Lang and Mitch Rafelson are part of this small but determined minority. Once at the forefront of the discovery and study of the SHEVA outbreak, they now live as virtual exiles in the Virginia suburbs with their daughter, Stella—a bright, inquisitive virus child who is quickly maturing, straining to break free of the protective world her parents have built around her, and eager to seek out others of her kind.
But for all their precautions, Kaye, Mitch, and Stella have not slipped below the government’s radar. The agencies fanatically devoted to segregating and controlling the new-breed children monitor their every move—watching and waiting for the opportunity to strike the next blow in their escalating war to preserve “humankind” at any cost.
In this masterful sequel to his Nebula Award winning Darwin's Radio, Bear takes us into a near future forever changed by the birth of millions of genetically enhanced babies to mothers infected with the SHEVA virus. These children may represent the next great evolutionary leap, but some fear their appearance rings a death knell for traditional humanity. Geneticist Kaye Lang, archeologist Mitch Rafelson and their daughter, Stella Nova, have been hiding from an increasingly repressive U.S. government that wants to put the so-called "virus children" in what are essentially concentration camps. Eventually, the family is captured, and when Mitch resists he's arrested on a trumped-up charge of assaulting a federal officer. In later years, Kaye returns to genetics and Mitch, once he's out of jail, to archeology, but neither gives up hope of finding and freeing their daughter. Meanwhile, Stella, imprisoned but surrounded by her own kind, begins to explore the full significance of what it means to be post-human. Though cast in a thriller mode, like much of Bear's recent work, this novel may contain too much complex discussion of evolutionary genetics to appeal to Michael Crichton or Robin Cook fans. Nonetheless, Bear's sure sense of character, his fluid prose style and the fascinating culture his "Shevite" children begin to develop all make for serious SF of the highest order. (Apr. 1)