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Greg Bear
Del Rey Books, 356 pages

Greg Bear
Greg Bear was born in San Diego, California, in 1951. With a father in the navy, Greg Bear had travelled to Japan, the Philippines, Alaska and all over the US by the age of 12. At 15, he sold his first story to Famous Science Fiction and in 1979 he sold his first novel, Hegira, to Dell. His awards include Nebulas for his stories "Hardfought," "Blood Music" and "Tangents" and one for his novel, Moving Mars (1993), plus Hugos for his stories "Blood Music" and "Tangents." As an illustrator, Bear's artwork has appeared in magazines such as Galaxy and Fantasy & Science Fiction along with a number of hardcover and paperback books. He was a founding member of ASFA, the Association of Science Fiction Artists. He did the cover for his own novel, Psychlone, from Tor. Heavily involved with SFWA, Greg Bear co-edited the SFWA FORUM, chaired the SFWA Grievance Committee, served as VP for a year, and President for 2 years.

Greg Bear Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Blood Music
SF Site Review: Darwin's Radio
SF Site Review: Slant
SF Site Review: Dinosaur Summer
SF Site Review: Foundation and Chaos

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

And you thought the twentieth-century was horrific. In Greg Bear's Vitals, the twentieth-century is just the staging ground for the terrors that await us in the twenty-first. We start finding out what's going on when Hal Cousins' search for the biological underpinnings of death brings him face-to-face with a vast terrifying conspiracy.

In some ways, Vitals is another step along the path Bear started on in Darwin's Radio. The difference here is that, while Darwin's Radio was a science fiction novel with strong elements of the high-tech thriller, Vitals is a horror novel with elements of SF and thrillers thrown in. Indeed, Bear is playing with the expectations readers of all those types of writing bring with them.

One scene early in the novel illustrates this perfectly. Hal has just returned from an exploratory trip along a deep ocean vent, and has found one-cell organisms which could be directly related to the earliest life on Earth. His joy of discovery and near rapturous state while working in his lab is prototypical SF writing, and then, in the space of a few paragraphs Hal's life is shattered, friends dead, lab destroyed, and he's on the run pursued by faceless enemies. Suddenly, Vitals is a much different book.

One of Bear's greatest gifts is the ability to present speculation so convincingly that it seems indistinguishable from the real science, he may be the best in SF at that particular trick. From the sounds-like-it-would-work method of destroying the Earth in Forge of God to the speculations on evolution and Neanderthals in Darwin's Radio, this technique serves to strengthen the stories by making them all the more easy to believe in. In Vitals, Bear turns this talent toward speculations involving bacteria and just what was going on near the end of World War II. It all lays the foundation for a story that builds with each new character and associated revelation into an inescapable world of horror and suspense. And the stand-the-world-on-its head ending both justifies the plot structure and brings the point home to the reader.

Vitals may not be Greg Bear's best novel, I personally prefer both Moving Mars and Darwin's Radio, but it is well worth reading and is fun for the way it dresses up Bear's speculations in a horror story wrapping instead of the science fiction setting we're all more used to from him. But Vitals also presents an opportunity for Bear to break out to a wider audience. The high-tech thriller market can be even larger than science fiction, and Vitals provides all the suspense and horror that thriller fans are used to finding in a novel. It also throws in more interesting, and complicated, science, with better writing and deeper characterization than is found in most thrillers. In short, Vitals is a book that long-time fans should find interesting and entertaining, while new readers wonder why it took them so long to discover a writer as good as Greg Bear.

Copyright © 2002 Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson is wondering whether he should simply enjoy the several references in Vitals to his home state of Minnesota, or be very, very, worried. His reviews also appear in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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