is a science fiction
novel by Greg Bear
It was originally published as a short story in 1983
, winning the 1983 Nebula Award
for best novelette and the 1984 Hugo Award
in the same category.
Greg Bear published an expanded version in novel form in 1985. The completed novel was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1985 and the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1986.
Blood Music deals with themes including biotechnology, nanotechnology (including the grey goo hypothesis), the nature of consciousness and of artificial intelligence.
In the novel, renegade biotechnologist Vergil Ulam creates simple biological computers based on his own lymphocytes
. Faced with orders from his nervous employer to destroy his work, he injects them into his own body, intending to smuggle the 'noocytes' (as he calls them) out of the company and work on them elsewhere. Inside Ulam's body, the noocytes multiply and evolve rapidly, altering their own genetic material and quickly becoming self-aware. The nanoscale civilization they construct soon begins to transform Ulam, then others, until eventually assimilating most of the biosphere of North America. This civilization, which incorporates both the evolved noocytes and recently-assimilated conventional humans, is eventually forced to abandon the normal plane of existence. The reason for the noocytes' inability to remain in this reality is somewhat related to the strong anthropic principle
. This is one of the more extreme cases of the technological singularity
found in science fiction
The book's structure (its sections are titled telophase, anaphase, etc.) mirrors the major phases of mitosis, a metaphor for the splitting off of the new noocyte civilisation from humanity. The novel has been criticized for overestimating the speed and effectiveness of the noocytes' growth and evolution, and for the apparent ease with which they become intelligent and with which they construct their immense civilisation . However, the realistic treatment of biotechnology and the depiction of existence in a subjective realm where one's consciousness can be cloned and modified may make this a prescient novel. It anticipates themes which were tackled by the postcyberpunk generation of writers. In particular, it is reminiscent of Permutation City, the Greg Egan novel which deals with computer-based consciousness.
Allusions/references from other works
The Outer Limits
(1995 revival) episode "The New Breed
" has heavy similarities to Blood Music
, although it portrays the similar events on a more personal scale. It may well be that the episode was inspired by Bear's writing, although it must also be said that similar scenarios are somewhat common in science fiction
, and more so in modern science fiction.
For example, another similar event occurs in the Stargate SG-1 episode Message In a Bottle.