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Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear

Darwin's Radio

by Greg Bear

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Darwin Series (1)

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In the novel, a new form of endogenous retrovirus has emerged, SHEVA. It controls human evolution by rapidly evolving the next generation while in the womb, leading to speciation.

The novel follows several characters as the "plague" is discovered as well as the panicked reaction of the public and the U.S. government to the disease.

Built into the human genome are non-coding sequences of DNA called introns. In Darwin's Radio, certain portions of these "non-sense" sequences, remnants of prehistoric retroviruses, have been activated (SHEVA) and are translating numerous LPCs (large protein complex). The activation of SHEVA and its consequential sudden speciation was postulated to be either controlled by a complex genetic network that perceives a need for modification or a human adaptive response to overcrowding. The disease, or rather, gene activation, is passed on laterally from male to female as per an STD. If impregnated, a woman in her first trimester who has contracted SHEVA will miscarry a deformed female fetus made of little more than two ovaries. This "first stage fetus" leaves behind a fertilized egg with fifty-two chromosomes rather than the typical forty-six characteristic of Homo sapiens sapiens.

During the third trimester of the second stage pregnancy, both parents go into a pre-speciation puberty to prepare them for the needs of their novel child. Facial pigmentation changes underneath the old skin which begins sloughing off like a mask. Vocal organs and olfactory glands alter and sensitize respectively, to adapt for a new form of communication. For over a year after the first SHEVA outbreak in the United States, no second stage fetus was recorded to have been born alive. The new human species was highly sensitive to all varieties of herpes and could not be viably born to a mother who had ever been infected with any of the virus' many forms, including Epstein-Barr and the chickenpox — thus eliminating 95% of the female population. Anesthetics and pitocin administered during childbirth were also lethal. So while many women would contract activated SHEVA, few would be able to successfully give birth, making the transition from Homo sapiens sapiens to the new human species very gradual.

The international response to the threat of SHEVA was to form a special task force that would work alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find a vaccine. Because the "disease", called "Herod's Flu", was already in the genome of every person on Earth, the only two options were to either inhibit the activation of the SHEVA gene by discovering the signal it used or to abort the second stage fetus. Due to the rapid mutation rate of the missing-link signal molecule, preventing the activation of the gene was infeasible. The second option, abortion, was already a controversial issue and the proposal of handing out free RU 486 was met with social upheaval, adding to the already chaotic social scene. The general public believed that the government was either not placing due importance on the death of countless fetuses, or already had a cure and refused to release it. In response, government research facilities were forced to test prospective treatments prematurely and could not pursue explanations for SHEVA outside of the "disease" category because of the potential reactions from the masses. It was not until viable second stage fetuses were born that the idea of SHEVA being a part of evolution rather than a disease began to grow from a few isolated sources
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
A fast-paced, page-turning sci-fi/medical thriller, with an acknowledged nod to Robin Cook's "Outbreak." However, the interesting (although improbable) scientific ideas in the book lift it above the run-of the-mill bestseller.
An unusual discovery is made - two Neandertal mummies, with a seemingly normal, Homo Sapiens infant. Is the child theirs?
Meanwhile, a new transmissible retrovirus is discovered - although it might seem to be nothing more than a cold, one of its side effects in pregnant women seems to be miscarriage. Mitch - an anthropological archaeologist with a dubious reputation, and Kaye, a rising star in the field of genetics, are brought together by an unexpected correlation between the ancient discovery and the modern virus. What seems to be a disease may not be that at all - but a major jump in the evolution of the species ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Great slow burner. Ended up going out and buying myself a copy of the hardcover because I enjoyed it so much, but despite having read this at the beginning of August I haven't yet gotten around to reading book 2. I think I got burned on Greg Bear when I decided to read something of his when I was either in middle school or high school, and just wasn't old enough to read it and actually understand it, so I've shied away from him ever since. I did the same thing with the Dragon series of Anne McCaffrey's, and when I finally got around to reading it I devoured the whole series. I think, now that I've come back to him, Greg Bear and I are likely to be good friends. ( )
  lyrrael | Oct 17, 2015 |
My son's mum flipped through this book and said it seemed like it was done by a virologist who thought they could write, as opposed to a writer who thought they understood virology. I don't 100% agree--she is certainly right if we are referring to the sciencey passages, but there are also the character moments and dramatic reveals that we expect from a well-put-together Hollywood biothriller. Some of them, like the birth of a key baby for humanity's future, are handled masterfully. And certainly I can admire Bear's commitment to getting the science right. But the two sides do not always seem well integrated, and some kind of weird contempt for the masses and their ignorance (in the face of a terrifying epidemic that even the experts don't understand!) seeps in. I enjoyed this, but I would not read it again, although I would read the sequel if it came to me of its own accord. ( )
1 vote MeditationesMartini | Jul 31, 2015 |
Greg Bear's fiction ingeniously combines cutting-edge science and unforgettable characters. It has won multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards and choruses of critical acclaim. Now, with Darwin's Radio, Bear creates a nonstop thriller swirling with provocative ideas about the next step of human evolution.

In a cave high in the Alps, a renegade anthropologist discovers a frozen Neanderthal couple with a Homo sapiens baby. Meanwhile, in southern Russia, the U.N. investigation of a mysterious mass grave is cut short. One of the investigators, molecular biologist Kaye Lang, returns home to the U.S. to learn that her theory on human retroviruses has been verified with the discovery of SHEVA, a virus that has slept in our DNA for millions of years and is now waking up. How are these seemingly disparate events connected? Kaye Lang and her colleagues must race against a genetic time bomb to find out.

Darwin's Radio pulses with intelligent speculation, international adventure, and political intrigue as it explores timeless human themes. George Guidall's masterful performance heightens the excitement and keeps you enthralled until the final fascinating word.
  Carl.S | Apr 5, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greg Bearprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Romero,Pedro JorgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosvall, MattiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For My Mother, Wilma Merriman Bear 1915-1997
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The flat afternoon sky spread over the black and gray mountains like a stage backdrop, the color of a dog's pale crazy eye.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345435249, Mass Market Paperback)

All the best thrillers contain the solution to a mystery, and the mystery in this intellectually sparkling scientific thriller is more crucial and stranger than most. Why are people turning against their neighbors and their newborn children? And what is causing an epidemic of still births? A disgraced paleontologist and a genetic engineer both come across evidence of cover-ups in which the government is clearly up to no good. But no one knows what's really going on, and the government is covering up because that is what, in thrillers as in life, governments do. And what has any of this to do with the discovery of a Neanderthal family whose mummified faces show signs of a strange peeling?

Greg Bear has spent much of his recent career evoking awe in the deep reaches of space, but he made his name with Blood Music, a novel of nanotechnology that crackled with intelligence. His new book is a workout for the mind and a stunning read; human malignancy has its role in his thriller plot, but its real villain, as well as its last best hope, is the endless ingenious cruelty of the natural world and evolution. --Roz Kaveney, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:04 -0400)

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When a virus that has slept in our DNA for millions of years wakes up, will the human race survive?

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