RED book 6: Blood Music – Greg Bear

I seem to have gotten a taste for re-reading old SciFi books that I read in my early 20s. Actually the choice of this book, and the reading of it, neatly demonstrates what RED is all about. I had been thinking about scenes from this book whilst reading Protector and it occurred to me I’d like to re-read it. Because I know I’ll finish it within a few days it’s no drama to decide to do that. Although I had hoped to finish it over last weekend, Monday/Tuesday at the latest when in fact it took me until last night – but that’s still only 6 days. (This time last year I was 162 pages into Wolf Hall which I hadn’t picked up for nearly three weeks).

So… Blood Music is a novel from 1985. It concerns the invention of thinking blood cells, little nanobots created via genetic manipulation. The scientist who develops them – an intense chap called Vergil Ulam – does so as a secret side project and when it’s discovered he’s forced to shut down his experiments and clear out his lab. Forced to choose between destroying his creations and give them some sort of chance he injects them into himself (what he hopes at the time will be a temporary measure). The ‘noocytes’ as he calls them not only thrive in his body, they start to adapt, reproduce and make improvements. That’s when thing start to get really strange.

The first half of this book follows the initial development of the noocytes and their existence within Vergil’s body. This was the part that I remembered and wanted to re-read. About half-way through though the noocytes discover that there’s a world outside their world, i.e. that Vergil is not all there is and they quickly become a kind of intelligent plague. After that there’s a sort of biological singularity event and the landscape of the story becomes much stranger.

I have to admit that it was the first half, the origin story, also the one set in a recognisable world, that I preferred. The second half was also a lot longer than I’d remembered. In fact when I had reached about half way and certain events had happened and characters appeared I realised that apart from the very end I couldn’t remember what else happened and there was a gap. It’s no coincidence that my reading rate slowed at this.

Funnily enough I discovered that Blood Music was based on an earlier short story/novella and for a while I thought that explained my lack of memory of the second half, but there are some events I do recall that aren’t in the short story version.

So my overall this book is not as great as its best bits (for me) but still a worthwhile read.

6/10 – an interesting origin story then a lot of weirdness.

P.S this was an ebook and probably the worst formatted one I’ve read so far. It had clearly been scanned and OCR’d before conversion and no-one had proofread it. ‘close’ was routinely rendered as ‘dose’ and so on. It seems to be more the case with back catalogue books.


About shuggie

My name is Shuggie, Paul or LatePaul depending on where you know me from. I work in computers (databases) and occasionally write about softw
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