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Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Giving Plague

recommended: "The Giving Plague" (David Brin)

Forry is a pathology researcher, and he hates the ALAS virus. In The Giving Plague, he tells us the story of ALAS, its discovery, and its impact.

The beginning of the story was jarring for me. An angry Forry narrating to a virus was a little strange. And Forry was so angry that I didn't like him, especially when he demonstrated that he was also cynical and selfish. However, then fellow researcher Leslie Adgeson appeared and hooked me. In contrast to Forry, he's generous and insightful, and the more Forry talks about him, the better the story becomes. In fact, as the story progressed, the contrast and personality clashes between these two characters added a compelling flavor, and because of Leslie, Forry became a more likable character to me.

As for ideas, an integral ingredient to every science fiction work, this story bleeds them. And they weren't just small ideas, either. It asked questions that left me thinking, and I will probably never again see diseases in quite the same way. This is the primary reason I'm recommending the story. If a story can expand my mind like this, then it's a worthy read.

As with other Brin fiction I've read, it is strong on the science. However, Brin is very good at describing scientific ideas and theories in an accessible way, and does not rely on flashy or obscure terms. While some hard sci-fi can bore or annoy me with excessive technical jargon, Brin has yet to do it, and that's great!

An added bonus is that the story is free, and you can get it online. I found it linked from the Biology in Science Fiction blog, in particular, this article. It's also a quick read, which is nice when you're staring at your computer screen.

Get The Giving Plague over at

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