Blood Music, Oryx and Crake

I’d heard good things about Blood Music by Greg Bear, and it didn’t disappoint, though I’m not sure it was quite the groundbreaking work I’d been led to believe. What begins as a typical tale of viral carnage cooked up in a lab by a young, overreaching Frankenstein takes a sharp turn into a Singularity scenario. I’m no fan of the Singularity because true transhumanity is as difficult to convey as true alienness, but this one is reasonably well done.

The sudden break in the middle drops several characters, picking up an almost entirely new cast - not a good sign for characterization. It took me too long to realize that one of the new characters was mentally retarded rather than poorly written. I thought there was a bit too much hand-waving over the “biologic” to make up for such sins of characterization. The Singularity tends to do that to writers - it’s as hard to write post-humans science as post-humans themselves. I’m impressed Blood Music worked out as well as it did.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for, either. Normally, I’d enjoy a nice post-apocalyptic disaster novel, but this one broke a few too many rules. The suspense of the novel is generated by the reader wanting to know what the main character, the Snowman, already knows - that is, what the heck happened to the planet? Eh? Eh? Getting the truth out of the author/narrator/Snowman one flashback at a time is like pulling teeth, so that by the time I found out I didn’t care anymore - and it’s not like me not to care about wiping out the human race.

There are amusing moments of plot, especially Snowman’s encounter with a sounder of pigoons, and the buildup to a climax of the non-flashback action -
but all is lost in the typical mainstream novel non-ending, in which Our Hero is faced with a pivotal choice and…the end. If you want to know what happens at the end of the novel, I advise you to read a different novel.

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