In the Alps, a small and almost clandestine expedition explores a hidden cave in the snow and ice. Ancient remains are found that will raise many more questions than answers. Although the immediate results of the discovery greatly intrigue the anthropological community on an international level, no one realizes the implications that will occur.
Meanwhile, in a small Russian village, a United Nations medical research team is trying to gain access to a mass grave. There are questions regarding who is buried there that need to be answered, very soon. Kaye Beck is on site in Tibilis to investigate a rumor of a "phage virus", its causes and effects and long term prognosis. A little subtrafuge goes a long way here to find out what is exactly going on and it takes a while. There is alot of of very technical stuff here, as there is throughout the book, but if you can wade through it, things do become clear, eventually.
Christopher Dicken, also in Russia, is from the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the Center for Disease Control. Between he and Kaye and Mitch Rafelson, the Alpine explorer, they are drawn into a conspiracy, a medical investigation and some murder and a little mayhem. It seems that pregnant women everywhere, and their unborn children, are dying of a mystery virus. The have no diagnosis and no cure. The only thing certain is that they hve to get the answers and very fast.
Considering the amount of technical and medical mumbo-jumbo in the book, it is not a bad read. It gets rather tedious at times, but the explainations aren't that hard to understand if you have a degree in Biology and understanf the Human Genome Project. Greg Bear has done extensive research on a number of very complex subjects contained in the story and it shows. Additionally, international intrigue, government cover-up and a virus that refuses to give in to modern medicine all adds up to an interesting story.
This isn't science fiction as we would think as far a space travel, but is still very futuristic in tone and technology. And that this disease can, and will signal the destruction of the human race as we know it, made this book a Hugo Award nomniee and "one of the best books of the year". I don't necessarily agree with that accolade, but give it a try - its a good sized book, definitely adult in content, suited for beach or poolside reading. I think you'll enjoy it if you can get past the technical/medical stuff.
Title: Darwin's Radio