The Secret Of Life
Copyright 2001 by
I first read this in November 2001.
In 2025 a virulent micro-organism, "Chi", is discovered on Mars and
brought back to Earth. Of course, it escapes its laboratory confinement
and begins to rampage through the biosphere.
Our staunch and dedicated heroine, Dr Mariella Anders, is called upon to
go to Mars to locate and study this life-form in its natural habitat and
find a way to save the Earth. On Mars she will find herself struggling
across the ancient landscape with team-members of uncertain loyalty, the
insular Anchee Ye and Mariella's nemesis, Penn Brown.
But the US government has been cozying up rather too closely to big
business, and since it was big business who accidentally let this deadly
life-form loose in the first place, they are very concerned that their
commercial interests do not suffer and that there is no adverse
publicity, even while as a global catastrophe unfolds.
So Mariella finds her freedoms restricted, the flow of scientific
information strangled by the commercial oversight and politics,
particularly in the person of the repulsive Penn Brown,
overshadowing everything. In the end she's going to have to take on
big business if she's going to find an answer.
One of the attributes of Paul McAuley's writing is his power of his
descriptive writing - this was what I liked most about one of his
earlier novels, "Ancients Of Days". This time he's mixed powerful
descriptive narrative with hard science (and there's a lot of
science in this book) and gives the reader solid, real experiences of
Mars and of various environments on Earth. Among all this is the
excitement of the chase and the political shenanigans.
It is both more ambitious and more accomplished than "Ancients Of Days".
The novel is readable, if you can take this much scientific detail, and
it's exciting, but it's not a classic.
Loaded on the 10th December 2001.