Bios, by Robert Charles Wilson

bios-by-robert-charles-wilson coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor
Published: 1999
Reviewer Rating: two stars
Book Review by Aaron M. Renn

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I greatly enjoyed last year’s Hugo nominee Darwinia, so was eagerly awaiting the latest novel from Wilson. Unfortunately, Bios disappoints. Wilson really only had one good idea in this book, and it wasn’t sufficient to carry a novel length work, even a short one like Bios. This one should have been done as a novella.

In the future, humanity is ruled by an interconnected set of megacorporate Trusts and a handful of aristocratic Families. Only a few scattered settlements in the Kuiper Belt remain nominally independent. Earth is poor, life is depressing. Against this backdrop, humanity is exploring the world Isis. Isis is a planet of a reasonably nearby star system that has a rich amount of life, extending all the way up to the nearly sentient level. Unfortunately, this life is uniformly deadly. The evolution of this planet followed a much more competitive path than ours, and humans simply can’t compete. Any exposure to the air and the microbes will result in an almost instant ebola. Zoe Fisher gets sent to Isis in order to test out a new type of enviro-suit that might be able to replace the bulky and unwieldy models now used.

As with Darwinia, there’s a world out there that might be fascinating to explore, but we actually get to see very little of it. That’s in spite of the book being subtitled “A Novel of Planetary Exploration”. Wilson only uses the world as a prop to develop his ideas about the nature of consciousness. The characters mostly aren’t very well drawn or very interesting. The mysteries and conspiracies weren’t very impressive either. I personally got the impression that Wilson was merely beefing up a novella in order to get it up to the bare minimum length needed for a novel.

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