kittiwake (kittiwake) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books 28 to 30

Book 28: "Darwin's Radio" by Greg Bear

"I hate to have women blame men," Mitch said. "It makes me want to throw up."
"I don't blame anybody," Kaye said. "But you have to admit, it's a natural reaction."
Mitch shot her a scowl that bordered on a dirty look, the first such he had ever given her. She sucked in her breath privately, feeling both guilty and sad, and turned to look out her window, peering down the long straight stretch of Broadway: brick buildings, pedestrians, young men wearing green masks, walking with other men, and women walking with women. "Let's forget about it," Mitch said. "Let's get some rest."

This is more of a technothriller than a science fiction novel, full of political and scientific machinations as the powers that be try to prevent the human race from evolving, after the activation of a some junk DNA leads to a worldwide outbreak of miscarriages followed swiftly by unusual pregnancies. If I hadn't done a biology degree I think I would have found it boring and skipped over the convoluted descriptions of genetics and retroviruses, but as it was, I found the science and politics more interesting than the story of the frankly rather irritating main characters. Kaye is an expert in retroviruses and Mitch is a disgraced archaeologist who makes a strange discovery in an Alpine cave that may be linked to present day events, but they weren't believable characters.

Book 29: :Darwin's Children" by Greg Bear

Kaye and Mitch had protected Stella like a rare orchid throughout her short life. Kaye knew that, hated the necessity of it. It was how they had stayed together. Her daughter's freedom depended on it. The chat rooms were full of the agonized stories of parents giving up their children, watching them be sent to Emergency Action schools in another state. The camps.
Mitch, Stella, and Kaye had lived a dreamy, tense, unreal existence, no way for an energetic, outgoing young girl to grow up, no way for Mitch to stay sane.

As I had copies of both books, I decided to read the sequel straight after finishing "Darwin's Radio". I found myself much more interested in what Dicken and Augustine discovered in the 'new children' school, than in Kaye and Mitch lying low to avoid their child being taken from them. Although it was never stated in the book, I think the main reason that Kaye dumped Mitch as soon as he was no longer useful for protecting the family, was because he was showing signs of depression, and she didn't want another husband with mental health issues after her experience with Saul. So them getting back together again later made no sense to me; in fact, nothing about their relationship rang true. And why the obsession with Mitch's hands - yes he used to be an outdoors Type who worked with his hands, and now he isn't - I get it!

Book 30: "The White Hotel" by D. M. Thomas

She stumbled over a root, picked herself up and ran on blindly. There was nowhere to run, but she went on running. The crash of foliage grew louder behind her, for they were men and could run faster. Even if she reached the end of the wood, there would be more soldiers waiting to shoot her, but these few extra moments of life were precious. Only they were not enough. There was no escape except to become one of the trees. She would gladly give up her body, her rich life, to become a tree, frozen in humble existence, the home of spiders and ants. So that the soldiers would rest their rifles against the tree, and feel in their pockets for cigarettes. They would shrug away their mild disappointment, saying, One did not matter, and they would go home; but she, a tree, would be filled with joy, and her leaves  would sing her gratitude to God as the sun  set through the trees around her.

The book starts with an erotic poem supposedly written by one of Sigmund Freud's patients, Anna G, followed by his case file on her. In her fantasies, Anna and her lover are staying at a white hotel on the shores of a lake, and although they see it as a cosy place to retreat from the world, it is a place of danger, with their fellow guests dying in various disasters in and around the hotel. the poem is followed by Freud's (fictional) case history of Anna G. written in 1919 when she consults him because of terrible pain that has no physical cause.

The story of Lisa Erdman (the Anna G of the case history) is picked up again in 1929, when she is now more or less cured, but still unmarried and averse to having children, and as the years went by I realised that her visions and psychosomatic pains were actually premonitions of terrible events yet to come. A readable and moving book with a sympathetic heroine.
Tags: anthropology, holocaust literature, psychiatry, sci-fi, science, thriller, war

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