DARWIN’S PARADOX by Nina Munteanu

Darwin’s Paradox is one of the two books that I took with me on my vacation to Puerto Vallarta last week. I’ve been meaning to read it for months. I bought a copy close to the release date because I’m a big fan of Nina Munteanu’s short fiction that she posts online (click here and scroll down to the side bar “Nina's short stories:” or check out my reviews of three of them: A BUTTERFLY IN PEKING, JULIA’S GIFT, & VIRTUALLY YOURS).

The other book that I read was Unholy Domain by Dan Ronco. I’ll get to that one later this week. But I bring it up know because both books, to my surprise and delight, covered the exact same subject matter: the evolution of Human and Machine into technological man (Ronco’s term).

Munteanu’s idea of how humanity will evolve to be able to communicate with machines is a deeply fascinating one. It involves merger of three types of consciousness, an evolved Human, Artificial Intelligence, and a Human Virus. How this all works is that an evolved human called a Veemeld, whose genetics allow them connect their minds directly to machines through a special headset, is infected with a Human Various called Proteus, which allows the infected Veemeld to communicate with machines without the special headset. However, it is also necessary for Proteus to have infected the Artificial Intelligence for it all to work.

Have I lost you yet? The communication process, bridge created by Proteus, is made clear through Munteanu’s writing. So, don’t worry. Read the book. If you get lost with all the new jargon, Munteanu has provided a glossary at the end of her book.

I must admit that I’m interested in the idea of an organic, I mean biological, viral, means to communicate with Artificial Intelligence. For this reader, it was a new twist to the idea that as we progress technology so must we evolve or risk or being out paced by our own creations.

Munteanu’s drama is tied up in the character of Julie Crane, the daughter of a brilliant scientist behind Darwin, a self aware virus that killed thousands before correcting itself and becoming Proteus, and the center of a conspiracy that threatens to destroy her family and the known world. It is up to Crane and band of unlikely heroes to uncover the evil mastermind behind the plot that could change things forever. Can Cane overcome her dark past and seek the answer living within her own body and soul?

You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

There is more to Darwin’s Paradox than just the strong and beautiful Julie Crane and her fight against the evil mastermind. There is the ugly and scared cult the Vee-radicators, who want to rid the world of the Veemelds. They consider Julie Crane the evilest person on the planet and hunting down and killing her is their priority number one.

Or you have the adventurous but naïve daughter of Crane, Angel. Angel is a second generation Veemeld and quickly learns that she is better off joining up with Proteus. She then becomes super street-smart with the help of some other children she meets in the city, and in true Scooby Doo style, saves the day, well, almost.

Munteanu’s prose is tightly woven and written without apologies for the complex language and scientific terms that are bounced around, which is refreshing. She assumes a smart reader, a reader not afraid to pick up a dictionary, or at least flip to the back of the book to see she included it in her glossary of terms. I particularly enjoyed the in depth discussion of Chaos Theory and how it played out in the plot.

Speaking of plot, I think that I’ve given much of it away, but I would like to say one more thing about Munteanu’s plot structure. The plot structure does not, in this reader’s opinion, adhere to the male-styled rising plot arch. That is not a judgment. It is just the way the story reads. Instead, the plot has one major peak with subsequent lesser peaks as the plot enters the denouement. It gives the book a never-ending quality, or I should say that it has multiple points where the story could have ended, but it went on and provide hope and a sense of renewal.

I say that if you are interested in the evolution of the Human and AI, then this is a must for your collection.

Munteanu, Nina. Darwin’s Paradox. Calgary: Dragon Moon Press, 2007.

1 comment:

sfgirl said...

Thanks for the in-depth review, Aaron. I always enjoy reading what you have to say. You should think seriously of writing reviews for IROSF or The New York Review of Science Fiction.