(1999) Greg Egan, Victor Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, 249pp, ISBN 0-57506-854-X
Perhaps responding to criticisms about his characters, Egan has written a slightly less idea-dense novel than we’ve come to expect. Prabir and Maddy Suresh are forced to escape the area of Indonesia due to the war (real life has anticipated this by 30 years, sadly), leaving their parents and the island Prabir has christened Teranesia. That’s ‘tera’ in the sense of teratology, the study of monsters or, more correctly in this case, mutations. Years later both Prabir and Maddy are to return to the island as more and more ‘new’ species are discovered. Something has re-awakened a dormant and very old gene in many species’ DNA, and it could conceivably jump species and threaten humankind...
Those of us who revel in Egan’s wild imagination will find this novel a little low key as his concentration here is on the relationship between brother and sister, and life scientists will be horrified in that ‘physicists should stay out of biology’ way that they have, but this is still an intriguing book and well worth a read
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