By Greg Bear
First Published: 1985
Review © 2014 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller, Disaster
Blood Music is one of Greg Bear’s earlier science fiction novels and it is generally recognized as the novel that first brought him real fame in the science fiction genre as it was his first novel that was nominated for multiple awards including the Hugo and the Nebula. It’s a hard science fiction novel about genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, and potential interactions between bioengineering and evolution.
Blood Music begins with a brilliant premise; advanced biological research to develop organic computational devices results in artificially intelligent bacteria. Then, when this intelligent bacteria in injected into a human, the bacteria evolves rapidly and turns into a contagious “disease” which is more daunting than any in history because this disease has some form of intelligence.
The early part of the novel focusses on a brilliant young scientist who has a superiority complex and feels misunderstood and underappreciated. This character, along with the inspired idea of intelligent bacteria, and the series of events that slowly builds towards the release of a pandemic of epic proportions are the best aspects of the novel. On the other hand, the writing quality is not up to the standards of many of Bear’s more recent works. This includes the use of many hastily drawn characters who aren’t really very interesting and an artificial intelligence that is somehow a bit disappointing. To make matters worse, while the novel looks like it might have the potential to build toward an epic ending, it ends up going out with more of a whimper than a bang.
Blood Music offers a terrific premise with interesting extrapolations about artificial intelligence and evolution. This makes for a worthwhile read even if it doesn’t live up to the standards of Bear’s later works such as Queen of Angels, Darwin’s Radio, and Moving Mars.