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Author Topic: Blood Music, by Greg Bear  (Read 5265 times)
Rev. Austin
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« on: July 01, 2009, 11:33:10 AM »

I don't normally read Sci Fi, but this looked interesting.  So I read it.  True story!

GREG BEAR
Blood Music
1985

BLOOD MUSIC started off as a novelette, before growing into this 243 page novel, and you can almost tell, as, halfway through, you’ve gone from a story about a brilliant scientist experimenting on himself, to a tale concerning a most unusual apocalypse…

Not that it matters, thankfully.  It’s skilfully done and serves as an intriguing continuation of the central plot – what happens when matter becomes intelligent at the cellular level, and then realises where it is?  This has got to be perhaps the most intelligent, and thoroughly mind-bending book I’ve ever read.  Greg Bear has clearly done his research, as the story’s crammed with intensely scientific language.  On the one hand, it’s hard not to zone out a bit when you’re presented with sentences like: “He had replaced many intron strings – self-replicating sequences of base pairs that apparently did not code for proteins and that comprised a surprising percentage of any eukaryotic cell’s DNA – with his own special chains.”, yet Bear writes with an even flow, and occasional humour, which prevents things from becoming too dry.  Plus, the main idea is fascinating.

Vergil I. Ulam is conducting experiments into cellular matter behind the backs of the bosses at the research lab where we works.  When they find out, they order him to destroy the results, as it’s “unethical”, for one thing.  Sensing he’s going to get fired anyway, Vergil injects himself with some of the test material, planning to ‘store’ it in his body until he gets access to another lab, where he can extract it and continue his research.

However, the new cells in Vergil’s body are a lot more intelligent than he thought, and they begin to ‘repair’ his body, turning him into something other than human…

The horror of change versus the need for improvement forms the central argument, as Vergil, and those close to him, begin to suffer unimaginable alterations when his ‘noocytes’ (as the intelligent matter is labelled) spread.  But, it’s not all as clear cut as ‘scientist experiments on self/scientist mutates’, and the real implications of the ‘change’ raise the story miles above any similar comic book/video game plot.

Later on, when the noocytes have overwhelmed entire cities (which is chilling, in a strangely benevolent way), an infected colleague of Vergil’s gives himself up for scientific study, in a bid to understand the noocytes.  Whilst under ‘house arrest’, a scientist visits him and supposes the following theory: the universe is created out of Thought.  His reasoning is far more elaborate than that simple ‘Socrates’ sentence, but that’s what it (pretty much) boils down to.  We, as a race, haven’t generated enough new theories regarding space-time to fundamentally alter what we have always assumed and perceived.  The noocytes, however, have.

Like I said: mind-bending.

The hard sci-fi element serves as a thread running throughout the entire story, but itself mutates into something concerning metaphysics and the nature of Being towards the end of the book.  If you want something that supposes these ideas, but in a manner that isn’t completely impenetrable, and is in fact very interesting and well-written (it’d have to be, really, otherwise you might as well read scientific encyclopaedias), BLOOD MUSIC is a truly mental piece of work.  In every sense of the word.
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« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2009, 02:26:45 PM »

Sounds interesting. Reminiscent in a way of one of the new Twilight Zone episodes I saw a few years back. 
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« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2009, 04:04:33 PM »

Can you remember which Twilight Zone it was?  I quite liked the new ones, although a few too many of them were rehashes of the original ones, but not quite as good. 

I do like sci-fi when a) it seems plausible and b) makes me think, and Blood Music is one of those rare books that, despite the rather complex language, seems realistic to me.  Although, the future it suggests is pretty terrifying...
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« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2009, 03:09:52 PM »

I can't remember the name of the episode and it's possible I was watching the new Outer Limits, but I remember It was in colour so not one of the originals. I do remember that good old John Boy out of the Waltons played the scientist who injected himself with nanobots. The little blighters then turned him into a superior human, not that he seemed to appreciate it.     
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« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2009, 03:34:32 AM »

Can you remember which Twilight Zone it was?  I quite liked the new ones, although a few too many of them were rehashes of the original ones, but not quite as good. 
I can't remember the name of the episode and it's possible I was watching the new Outer Limits, but I remember It was in colour so not one of the originals. I do remember that good old John Boy out of the Waltons played the scientist who injected himself with nanobots. The little blighters then turned him into a superior human, not that he seemed to appreciate it.     

That would be the new Outer Limits season 1, episode 014, The New Breed, starring Richard Thomas, Peter Outerbridge, and Tammy Isbell.

I do like sci-fi when a) it seems plausible and b) makes me think, and Blood Music is one of those rare books that, despite the rather complex language, seems realistic to me.  Although, the future it suggests is pretty terrifying...

It's been several years since I read Blood Music, but I still remember how disappointed I was with it. While it started out great, it gradually spun out of control, I thought, getting ever more implausible to the point that it was ridiculous. The entire human race was destroyed, er, excuse me, transformed, because of some cells that washed down the protagonist's shower drain. I thought it was a good idea gone terribly awry, and I've never read another one of his books since. Prior to that, I had read several of his novels.
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« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2009, 06:44:04 AM »

It's the only book I've read of his - are any of his other books any good, then?  A little while ago I made up my mind to try new writers who deal with genres I don't normally bother with, but sometimes, like with Greg Bear, although I might enjoy whatever I read, there could be an element that slightly puts me off - in Bear's case it's the 'hard sci-fi' element.  I liked it in Blood Music, but if his other work leans too heavily in this direction I'm not sure I'd like it as much.

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« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2009, 11:06:30 AM »

Ah yes. I forgot the type of things you like to read...  cool   No wonder you liked Blood Music

I do like sci-fi, though I agree with you that it *can* get "too hard." For me, I would say that's when the science becomes more important than the characters, or when the explanations of the science become so tedious or technical that I lose interest.

With that in mind, I think your best bet for Bear books would be Queen of Angels and /Slant. I loved those books. The protagonist is a policewoman in a highly futuristic Los Angeles who has undergone some kind of voluntary modification. Her skin is described as being like porpoise skin, if I recall correctly, and she has to soak in a tub on a regular basis. But she's one tough cop, and she's dealing with a psychopath who's using a device called a hellcrown on his victims... (Just went on Amazon to look, and found it's out of print; the Kirkus review said it had "Many individually quite impressive parts that don't add up to a coherent whole," but I'm not sure that will slow you down.  Wink  I also got the first sentence: "Orca shiny in water, touched by mercury ripples, Mary Choy sank into her vinegar bath, first lone moment in seventy two hours.")

Greg Bear is an author who isn't afraid to work on a large canvas, I'll give him that. He goes for big ideas. I also read Eon and Eternity; and The Forge of God and Anvil of Stars. In "Forge" and "Anvil" he portrays a scenario in which first one of Jupiter's moon's disappears (Forge) and then some aliens destroy planet Earth and in "Anvil" a group of the survivors go after said aliens, bent on revenge.
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Rev. Austin
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« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2009, 02:15:50 PM »

Those all sound pretty cool, actually.  I'll have to see what I can find in my local library!
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« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2009, 02:58:27 PM »

I've not read Blood Music, but will get it after your review, RA, in spite of Pharosian's reservations.

If you are looking for good scifi mysteries from relatively unknown authors you could try Exit, Pursued by a Bee by a certain Geoff Nelder Wink Available in some good book shops, all online stores or signed from me.

Geoff
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« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2009, 05:27:11 AM »

After such shameless plugging how could I not check your stuff out?  grin
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« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2010, 12:24:08 PM »

Just found this thread again...

Rev, Did you ever read any other books by Greg Bear?

Geoff, Did you ever read Blood Music? I'd be curious to hear what you thought of it.
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Rev. Austin
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« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2010, 12:39:34 PM »

Nope.  My local library is rubbish and I don't have the means to buy stuff online  Cheesy
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« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2010, 12:55:19 PM »

Still not acquired Blood Music - now having read Wayne's review again, I must get a copy.

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« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2010, 07:27:44 PM »

Read this story years ago and really enjoyed it. I am not much of a Sci-Fi reader but this one did get my attention.  afro
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