Book Review: Darwin’s Children, by Greg Bear

357 pp. (hardback) 

Darwin's ChildrenIn this sequel to Darwin’s Radio, Mitch and Kaye are in hiding with their daughter Stella, who is one of the “virus children,” who had been born as a result of “Herod’s Flu.” Mitch and Kaye are in hiding because most of the world is deathly afraid of the children and have been rounding them up and confining them in special “schools.” (They may have reason to be frightened, since a handful of the carriers of the original plague are living disease factories and have to live in complete isolation.)

Stella, who is unusually precocious and desperately lonely for her own kind behaves in a reckless manner which puts the family on the run again. (Apparently Kaye and Mitch never gave little Stella the Stranger Danger lecture–she goes off with a very suspicious man who turns out to be a bounty hunter specializing in kidnapping “virus kids.” Then Stella catches an illness from one of the other kidnapped children and nearly dies.) Eventually they are all apprehended and Stella is removed to a school where she can be with others like herself, which is not entirely a good thing since these “schools” are actually prison camps.

This forcible separation more or less ends the relationship between Kaye and Mitch, who head off in different directions. Kaye ends up going back to work for the same place that she left and Mitch ends up going on an archaeological dig. Both have strange, supernatural experiences. Kaye receives mysterious visitations and epiphanies that get her into huge trouble when she uses laboratory equipment to figure out what she’s experiencing, and Mitch has shamanic experiences involving a prehistoric hominid village that had been destroyed by a volcano eruption. The importance of the dig is that two different species of human had been coexisting in what appears to be a mutually beneficial arrangement.

(I’m kind of peeved that he is apparently magically able to figure out the sequence of events that led to a group of women having been apparently abandoned by their men simply because he is a man. A big deal is made of the fact that most of the archaeologists at the dig were women except for Mitch and another man, and that one of the women was a (gasp!) lesbian, and therefore, somehow incapable of discovering that the men had been downslope trying to get back to the village when the volcano erupted.)

Meanwhile, Stella narrowly escapes a mass murder attempt and manages to find her way to a farm owned by a Georgian (as in Europe-Georgia) couple who are among the very few survivors of the original outbreak of the disease that created the “virus children.” She is not entirely happy when her parents finally discover where she is and tracks her down. They do manage to reconcile, but it’s difficult for all concerned.

The story ends on a somewhat mystical note, as the archaeological dig becomes a cosmic lesson inspiring peaceful coexistence between ordinary humans and the new species. (All of the prejudice and murders and riots mysteriously die down, people are suddenly being quietly supportive of the parents of the “virus kids,” etcetera.) While I do like this book a little better, I really wish there had been more of Stella and the other children, and less wandering around in laboratories. It would also have been nice if Mitch could have had his pseudo-shamanic experiences without making other characters look like morons who are too “angry, emotional and female” to look at all the facts.


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Filed under fantasy elements, Greg Bear, human 2.0, Review: Book, science fiction

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