Darwin's Radio, Greg Bear
(UK edition: Voyager 0-00-225731-9, £16.99, 440pp, hc, May 1999;
US edition: Ballantine Del Rey 0-345-42333-x, $24.00, 430pp, hc, September 1999)
Greg Bear's new novel is a suspense thriller that's also hard SF, about punctuated evolution, the human genome, and retroviruses. Gary K. Wolfe, in the August 1999 Locus, calls it ''one of the most intelligent and original thrillers of recent years''. Parallel stories follow the discovery of Neanderthal remains on an Alpine glacier, and the investigation into the murders of pregnant women in post-Soviet Georgia. The stories connect as a new disease spreads, striking pregnant women, causing their miscarriages -- and then causing some of them to become pregnant again, without sexual contact. Wolfe writes:
''What makes Darwin's Radio impressive as SF is that all this is worked out with the kind of inevitability of a good scientific investigation ... everything makes biological sense given a couple key speculative elements. There is, in other words, no gratuitous horror, no car crashes, violent chases, or brutal murders... Darwin's Radio is this season's most convincing candidate for a bestselling thriller that remains true to its SF roots.''
Locus reviewer Russell Letson:
''Bear is one of the handful of writers in the field who manage both the complexity of the intellectual material and the solidity and depth of feeling required for a ''novel of ideas'' to be a real novel.''
Ender's Shadow, Orson Scott Card
(Tor 0-312-86860-x, $24.95, 380pp, hc, September 1999, cover by Lisa Falkenstern)
Card's new novel isn't a sequel to his famous, Hugo- and Nebula-winning Ender's Game (1985), but rather a parallel novel, telling the events of that book from a different point of view, that of a character called Bean, a recruit in Ender's army. Gary K. Wolfe's review in the September 1999 Locus evaluates the impact and appeal of the original book and its sequels, and decides that Card has found ''enough niches in this narrative to insert an entirely new hero, Bean, and it is Bean's story -- not the recapitulation of Ender's -- that gives Ender's Shadow substance.'' Wolfe concludes that the book
''is very likely to regain for Card that substantial young-adult audience (measured not entirely by the actual age of the readers) whose attention began to drift once the narrative moved beyond the primal world of smart kids and bullies. Ender's Shadow brings that world right back, and smart kids are going to eat it up.''
Locus reviewer Faren Miller:
''Was the experiment worth the risk? I'd say it was. ... [T]hrough those remarkable children Ender and Bean, Card investigates mankind past, present, and future -- managing to entertain while he explores.''