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Blood Music by Greg Bear
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Blood Music (edition 1985)

by Greg Bear

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2,834525,097 (3.78)88
Fiction. Science Fiction. HTML:

In the tradition of the greatest cyberpunk novels, Blood Music explores the imminent destruction of mankind and the fear of mass destruction by technological advancements. Blood Music follows present-day events in which the fears concerning the nuclear annihilation of the world subsided after the Cold War and the fear of chemical warfare spilled over into the empty void of nuclear fear. An amazing breakthrough in genetic engineering made by Vergil Ulam is considered too dangerous for further research, but rather than destroy his work, he injects himself with his creation and walks out of his lab, unaware of just quite how his actions will change the world. Author Greg Bear's treatment of the traditional tale of scientific hubris is both suspenseful and a compelling portrait of a new intelligence emerging amongst us, irrevocably changing our world.

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Member:mojojokie
Title:Blood Music
Authors:Greg Bear
Info:Arbor House
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:sf, science fiction, biopunk, body horror, artificial intelligence

Work Information

Blood Music by Greg Bear

  1. 20
    Brain Plague by Joan Slonczewski (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: For sentience at the microscopic level affecting human life and behavior.
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Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
This is the first science fiction novel that I have finished in what I am presuming to be my post-juvenile phase, possibly a "neophyte." Neither am I a scientist, let alone a biologist, so am unable to say anything about the hard sf conceit of this book (bio-AI nanotechnology), other than that it is a what-if question I've privately held for some time. All this is to say that I may be reaching with this review. Spoilers ahead.

To blindly proclaim a philosophical reading of Blood Music: "Nietzschean human vitality (in the strictly embodied sense) is severed from its all too human form, evolving beyond the discreteness that is the existential reality of humanity, and recapitulates all tragedy into secular apotheosis via biological singularity."

Perhaps I am only remarking upon the obvious, fundamental themes of human evolution, etc. that has inevitably arrived downstream from it's blossoming point, Nietzsche, but the metaphysics maps too cleanly not to talk about. If you know much at all about N, then you know how he feels about music, and you know how he feels about the body. Music is the will-to-power, and even Communion is only consummated by the blood and flesh of Christ. As such the noocytes are sort of these Ubermenschian meat angels who must sing, chant, and guide the humans to the great Dionysian rite at the end of the world. Vergil acts as our prophet here, symbolically acting as the pure Promethean spirit of innovation that entirely swallows up Apollonian bureacracy.

The singularity then allows humans, as we see in Bernard, to relive any part of their lives as many times as they'd like: eternal recurrence. Not exactly... eternal recurrence does not propose that we get to redo anything, only to relive, no matter how tragic. But N was chronically afflicted... would he have taken up the noocytes' bargain? A Catholic must necessarily say no, for her limits, in the Weilian sense, are the source of beauty.
We do end this book in what may be described as a transhumanist utopia. The physically impossible, logical endpoint of transhumanism as the absolute freedom of the human spirit unshackled by biology. This is also where the body horror occurs, so clearly there is some ambiguity.
Then there is the matter of racial memory, which the noocytes discover latently extant in the humans' introns. Even the reavaluation of all values is in this fleshly flat circle.
The society of cells also form a panpsychic world, a clever throughline from cell-to-human scale to noocyte-to-biosphere scale, but the question of mind here is perhaps best explored by another story. It is also remarked upon once by Vergil that he felt beckoned to create them... a thought worth tugging on.

I don't understand some of the criticism levied at Blood Music's speculation. The first part that is entirely dedicated to RNA/DNA coding is great. If we can accept that ACGT codons can be used like bytes of information, then there is no difficulty imagining that a cell can acting as a Turing complete computer, a cluster of cells can act as big data models, and spontaneous intelligence can emerge from the whole network, especially given that they have literally the entire biological history of DNA to run simulations on. In this age of ChatGPT, to have an alternative, lively depiction of AI rather than digital slop is so so refreshing. And how is it so hard to accept that the noocytes enter hyperspace? Observation does literally collapse superpositions, and we literally don't know would happen if a gajillion observations fell upon matter. In 2024, Netflix has just released an adaptation of the 3-Body-Problem and audiences do not seem to have an issue suspending their disbelief for Sophons.

Anyways, I will revisit these ideas one day when I have read more of Bear, more N, and more singularity stories to compare with (I found it funny that Suzy literally receives her own Evangelion omedetou scene). Otherwise:
- Prose is proficient. Nothing less, nothing more.
- Some characters feel inconsequential. Suzy serves her purpose as the normal but lacks motivation, though charming. Others get no ending. Love the three principal male characters though.
- I read somewhere that Orson Scott Card said Bear can't be biopunk because he's too nice to be punk. Certainly true here: every character feel like real humans and are treated quite tenderly.
- It must also be said that this is considered the first biopunk book and the first account of nanotechnology. Huge if true. Genuinely quite like Frankenstein in its ability to act as a comparison point for all further sf speculations, just without Shelley's incredible writing.
- Really enjoyed this despite the messiness. ( )
1 vote mojojokie | Jun 11, 2024 |
Nauseating to read because 2020, but mind-blowing and gripping. Took so many wild turns, and in terms of style felt like it could have been written yesterday. ( )
  Amateria66 | May 24, 2024 |
Fun hard science fiction, interesting ideas. Kinda like Annihilation in a way, and kinda creepy in a way... ( )
  keithostertag | May 14, 2024 |
Enjoyably Good ( )
  saltyessentials | Dec 23, 2023 |
Great exploration of biotech, biochips and intelligence.
I had read the Analog short-story (which was great on its own) and the novella takes it further, not necessarily in a great direction, sometimes stretching credulity but interesting nonetheless.

A solid, enjoyable scifi book. ( )
  acaciocruz | Jan 1, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greg Bearprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brautigam, DonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jetter, FrancesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wachtenheim, DorothyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Astrid - Luxury, necessity, obsession With all my love
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Each hour, a myriad of trillion of little live things - microbes, bacteria, the peasants of nature - are born and die, not counting for much except in the bulk of their numbers and the accumulation of their tiny lives.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Fiction. Science Fiction. HTML:

In the tradition of the greatest cyberpunk novels, Blood Music explores the imminent destruction of mankind and the fear of mass destruction by technological advancements. Blood Music follows present-day events in which the fears concerning the nuclear annihilation of the world subsided after the Cold War and the fear of chemical warfare spilled over into the empty void of nuclear fear. An amazing breakthrough in genetic engineering made by Vergil Ulam is considered too dangerous for further research, but rather than destroy his work, he injects himself with his creation and walks out of his lab, unaware of just quite how his actions will change the world. Author Greg Bear's treatment of the traditional tale of scientific hubris is both suspenseful and a compelling portrait of a new intelligence emerging amongst us, irrevocably changing our world.

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Vergil Ulam's breakthrough in genetic engineering is considered too dangerous for further research. Rather than destroy his work, he injects himself with his creation and walks out of his lab, unaware of just quite how his actions will change the world. Bear's treatment of the traditional tale of scientific hubris is suspenseful and a compelling portrait of a new intelligence emerging amongst us and changing our world irrevocably.
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