Title: Darwin’s Radio
Author: Greg Bear
Publish Date: 1999
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Sub-Genre: Genetics, Retroviruses, DNA, Evolution, Assassination, Martial Law, Childbirth, Romance, Native Americans, Archeology, Paleontology, Neanderthals, Advanced Medicine, Genocide, Mutation, Sub-speciation, Riots, Mass Hysteria, Virus, Phages, Chromosomes
The human race has evolved over tens of thousands of years, and there is considerable debate about whether the evolutionary steps are gradual or made in jumps. One theory is that humans store up a multitude of minor changes, and then make all of the mutations at the same time – when they are triggered by some sort of external stimulus. Kaye Lang is a noted molecular biologist, and that is her opinion on evolution.
For years she has been working on a theory that a type of retrovirus is built into the human genome that can be activated externally. As she works out more details, across the globe a discredited paleontologist named Mitch is hiking a glacier with two others when he encounters a Neanderthal family mummified in a cave off the edge of the flow. He takes skin samples from the mummies as he prepares to leave the site and unknown to him, his companions took the child mummy from its resting place before they left the cave. The theft is found out when the entire party meets with an accident leaving Mitch alone to survive and explain the mummy to authorities.
With the second credibility setback, Mitch is now in no position to be heard on any topic. But as a new disease begins spreading throughout the world, he becomes entangled in Kaye’s work on the mysterious cause of the disease. Kaye’s husband dies leaving her in a precarious position of defending herself and her reputation as a scientist in her own right. She joins an expanding national disease investigation team and finds herself as its figurehead with naysayers running the show.
When Kaye and Mitch finally come together, their thoughts mingle and they theorize that since the genome-based retrovirus existed even in his Neanderthal samples, and that there is a relationship. Now they both suspect that the retrovirus isn’t a virus at all – it is a new sub-species of humanity and it’s also killing thousands of infants.
Evolution. Some would say that man has evolved from the primordial ooze into today’s modern man. The big question is whether it happened slowly, with minor changes between the different stages, or in leaps as has been suggested by many scientific research papers.