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Bios by Robert Charles Wilson
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Bios (1999)

by Robert Charles Wilson

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English (8)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)

A humanistic book in which everybody dies just so the author can wax eloquent on his pet philosophical point. Not really enjoyable and will not be reading any more by this author. ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
Gave up... both boring and complex... that is to say, I don't understand what's going on and don't care.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
My reaction to reading this novel in 2002. Spoilers follow.

The idea of the Bios in this novel, a universe-wide mind created by cells retaining a link with each other even after they divide (the analog from quantum mechanics, Bell's Theorem, is referred to), that cells form a matrix for intelligence and sentience much like individual brain cells enable a mind or ink on a printed page (another metaphor from the book) encodes a text, reminded me of the works of Olaf Stapledon -- though, like almost everyone who reminds you of Stapledon, the timescale and style are not comparable at all.

This novel is compressed, with the exception of flashbacks to Zoe Fisher's youth and the ending, which is about 150 years later (but, seemingly, still before the sequel story "The Dryad's Wedding".) It was also an idea that reminded me a bit of Poul Anderson's Genesis with its planetary nodes of intelligence.

The story moves along surprisingly quick and takes a surprisingly grim turn with all the characters dying, killed by a Bios that can't control the largely autonomic functions of its immune system when confronted with the Terran descendants of some sort of damaged life that seeded Earth.

The novel is quite literary, being built around Elam's notion of "life meets life". Zoe Fisher, in effect a tool (designed by the Devices and Personnel section of Earth's totalitarian Trusts -- uncomfortably like medieval China in its attitudes including orchidectomy (castrations) -- of an unpleasant Earth. It's an authoritarian regime justified to end environmental degradation and war, its aristocracy descended from Nordic stock. She meets the odd life of the Kuiper belts, which rebelled from their Earth governors. Fear of plagues requires a long, and not frequently done, killing off of body fauna, for travelers moving between Earth and the Kuiper settlements. Kuipers are an odd, tribal lot that are partly libertine, partly puritanical and largely eschew the thymostats which regulate the moods of the rulers and their tools, like Zoe, of Earth.

But the difference in culture and body fauna between those from Earth and those in the Kuiper Belt is nothing compared to the utter, implacable, rapid, evolving hostility of Isis' life to all Earth forms. Yet, Tam and Zoe and the other people involved in Isis' exploration feel Isis calling to them. Zoe, unknowingly stripped (in an act of spontaneous, covert rebellion by a doctor who turns out to have revolutionary descendants) of her thymostat feels not only the up and down of moods and fears but sexual attraction, eventually consummated, with Tam. The Bios, as Zoe lays dying, her life prolonged by her artificial immune system, tries to communicate with her.

The image of life interpenetrating is also seen in various prion and viral incursions on the shelters of the colonists. I liked how the relatively simple, understated prose managed to convey the terror of Zoe and Tam being trapped in the underground digger complexes.

The only thing not adequately explained is how the exploration party that, 150 years after the deaths of the original Isis' outpost, goes to Isis at novel's end. How is perhaps justified by a continuation of the work that created Zoe. Why the augmentation is chosen is not entirely clear. I did like Isis communicating with the second wave of explorers though it seems that, in this universe, it will take the events of "The Dryad's Wedding" to make that communication literal and detailed. Even then it will only be to one person, briefly, and the knowledge of the Bios will be lost (and a dark hint made that humanity is moving into regions of very alien minds).

Another theme is orphandom. Humanity and the consciousness of its members is described as being orphaned from the Bios, and Zoe is an orphan. ( )
  RandyStafford | Jan 2, 2014 |
Wilson is consistently creative, consistently imaginative and usually somewhat dark. Bios is typical in those qualities but what struck me most about this surprising book was that the heart of the book concerns human attempts to recognize and come to grips with a world-wide intelligence composed of all the life forms on the planet. I read Isaac Asimov's Nemesis at almost the same time and was struck by the different ways these two writers developed the premise and used it in their stories. ( )
  nmele | Nov 11, 2013 |
An early novel from RCW in which settlers fight for survival on a hostile planet. Lots of cliches there (innocent girl, evil companies, bureaucracy, etc.) but entertaining... ( )
  TheCrow2 | Dec 7, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Charles Wilsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This one is for Sharry, who saw me through.
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The regulator lay deep in the flesh of the girl's upper arm, a pale egg in a capillary nest.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0812575741, Mass Market Paperback)

In the 22nd century, humanity discovers life on an extrasolar planet, Isis: life that is lush, beautiful--and deadly. The least molecule of Isian biology kills humans painfully and horribly. Zoe Fisher has been born and bred--cloned and genetically engineered--to explore Isis. But Isis has secrets undiscovered by humanity, and Zoe herself contains secrets known only to the political powers that created her. And an act of biomedical sabotage has changed Zoe in unknown ways.

Robert Charles Wilson is the author of Science Fiction Chronicle's Best SF Novel of 1998, bestselling Darwinia, also the Aurora Award winner and Nebula and Hugo Award finalist. With Bios, Wilson has created a hard-SF novel rich in great ideas, strong writing, and the classic sense of wonder, a work that stays true to the implications of its frightful biology. --Cynthia Ward

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:46 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Zoe Fisher was born to explore the planet of Isis--literally. Cloned and genetically engineered, she little suspects that there are secrets implanted within her--and the planet itself has secrets that will change humankind's understanding of life in the universe.… (more)

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