Tonawanda News

July 7, 2013

BOOK NOOK: 'Blood Music' a precursor to today's zombie hits

By Dean Goranites
The Tonawanda News

— Greg Bear released his prediction for the end of the world in his novel “Blood Music,” published in 1985. Had he written the book today, considering the recent explosion of interest in zombie culture the past few years, Bear would arguably have a bestseller on his hands. Note, there are no zombies in “Blood Music” — but that will be touched on later. 

A science fiction thriller with plenty of real world implications, Bear’s prediction for the future is a bleak one. “Blood Music” begins in an American lab, where scientists are attempting to create “biochips,” or micro robots intended for human ingestion and improved health. One scientist implements some tests of his own, creating a completely biological version of the biochips – a type of animal cell intelligent enough to be programed to aid the human body whichever way the human pleased.

Intending to be used for the good of humanity, things quickly get out of hand when the cells become too intelligent – and want to live on their own terms.

What follows, after a splendid twist, (don’t fret, no spoilers here) is the extermination of the human race on a grand scale, and the attempts of a remaining few to survive.

What Bear creates is a doomsday scenario not unlike a zombie apocalypse — except instead of succumbing to the same old survivor-horror story of a land full of flesh-eating virus carriers, Bear goes all out and mutates the infected population far beyond anything resembling a zombie. 

Instead, bodies melt into a plastic, gloppy goo, soon alive, spreading, smearing and sliming its way around.

The scariest part is how well Bear makes it all seem plausible. Yes, there is some “techno-babble” sprinkled throughout the novel, but most is readily comprehensible to the average reader, and that which is not can be glossed over without much loss. Bear applies plenty of basic scientific reasoning behind the happenings of “Blood Music,” detailing how easy such a take over could occur.

Bear reaches even further, however, unsatisfied with “Blood Music” standing as a simple futuristic-horror story. The author goes so far as to detail an entirely new understanding of the universe and its underpinnings, based on the concepts he builds in the tale. He expresses, through his fiction, how we humans have much more control over our reality than we may think, through the power of our thought. He includes plenty of real evidence and theory to back up his claims, yet never presents his ideas at the sacrifice of the reader’s entertainment.

That’s another thing. Even with all the dismal predictions, scientific theories and technical jargon, Bear never loses sight of his main goal – to entertain his readers. “Blood Music” is a thrilling ride, a page turner, an engrossing guided tour through a future reality the reader can’t help but keep his eyes glued to. First and foremost, it was written for entertainment. 

In what could be seen as a sad after note, Greg Bear’s most recent work has been writing stories in the “Halo” universe, a world based off of the extremely popular Xbox video game. If Bear’s intentions to write in the “Halo” world are because he loves what it provides him with as a storyteller, then by all means — keep writing, Bear. It would be depressing, however, to find he was forced into the work due to lack of sales of his earlier achievements. 

“Blood Music” is a terrific novel, one that begs many important questions, and skillfully takes readers on a tremendously entertaining ride. One can’t help but think should Bear have published it today, and threw in some George A. Romero-esk zombies, it would be Greg Bear — and not “World War Z” author Max Brooks — with the multi-million dollar Hollywood movie in the works.

Dean Goranites publishes weekly video book reviews at unleashthis.tumblr.com, and can be reached through Twitter at unleash_this.

• WHAT: "Blood Music"

• BY: Greg Bear

• GRADE: B