Thursday, 18 October 2012

Blood Music

Greg Bear Blood Music (1985)

I've been labouring under a misapprehension of Blood Music - the 1985 novel expanding upon a 1983 short story - as a cyberpunk landmark of some description, the first science-fiction novel to deal with nanotechnology; and because I can't be arsed to paraphrase, Wikipedia puts it thus:

The book has also been credited as the first account of nanotechnology in science fiction. More certainly, the short story is the first in science fiction to describe microscopic medical machines and to treat DNA as a computational system capable of being reprogrammed; that is, expanded and modified.

Except the tiny machines are laboratory tailored lymphocytes, and it reads more like one of those Michael Crichton medical dramas than anything beloved of people who regard Blade Runner as the greatest film of all time. This is, roughly speaking, a good thing.

Blood Music starts off as your basic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but with more jargon as our hero injects himself with lymphocytes he's created, this being done in hope of saving them from destruction by his entirely more sensible biological research laboratory boss guy. Rather inconveniently, it turns out that the lymphocytes have developed intelligence and the ability to restructure their host on a cellular level. The situation goes increasingly tits up as every last living cell in the United States is absorbed into a single massive continent sized dollop of sentient microbes who, because reality is a function of consciousness, begin to warp the established laws of the universe simply through the act of comprehension.

Bear writes well, keeping it quick and clean without unnecessary fuss, doing that airport blockbuster page turning thing without resorting to shorthand. Aside from slightly bland characterisation, there's big ideas and not much to fault, but still I can't help feeling that a story this weird could have used a bit more poetry, and should have lived up to at least some of the hype.

1 comment:

  1. I read this without knowing anything about it around '93-ish, I think, and it completely blew my mind. I liked how, at the beginning, it doesn't really give you any clue how bat-shit mental it was going to get by the end.