Greg Bear – Darwin’s Children

In this follow-up to the Nebula award-winning Darwin’s Radio, Bear picks up the same characters 12 years after the first outbreak of the SHEVA virus. The first part of the book, ostensibly about the Rafelson family, can also be read as a highly critical commentary of topical Western issues: racism, domestic terrorism, SARS, HIV, universal surveillance and loss of privacy, the erosion of civil liberties in times of crisis, corrupt and uncritical media, and political power obtained without the consent of an informed electorate. Bear hits the point home hard: the vague “they” we fear are, in fact, us. Part two takes a more traditional science fiction route, following the heroes as they make their scientific, social and personal discoveries. Part three is about hope. Unfortunately, although parts 2 and 3 are necessary to wrap up the story, they lack the insight and urgency of part 1, and felt like a let-down in comparison. I think the book would have been much more powerful if Bear had decided not to go for the “happy” ending, but that’s his choice.