Of all the possible sci-fi/medical premises, Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio hinges on the prospect that long “dead” DNA sequences of (retro)viral origin in all of our genomes could be activated in a fast-acting cascade form that manifests in speciation starting with the next generation.
In the larger field of mobile DNA elements, the focus of my lab is not on the abundant and well-known Alu elements — sometimes used for DNA fingerprinting — but on less frequent and less characterized endogenized retroviruses. Most Many scientists don’t believe there is much going on with our favourite sequences.
“What she was an expert in, compared to the huge world of human DNA, was a series of broken-down and seemingly abandoned shacks in a number of small and almost forgotten towns. The HERV [human endogenous retrovirus] genes were supposed to be fossils, fragments scattered through stretches of DNA…”
But then Greg Bear publishes a successful speculative story of the possibility and it feels to me like it’s required reading.
By many reviewers’ accounts, it’s a hard piece of science fiction to get into as far as medical/sci-fi stories go. I probably would not have ploughed this far (about 30 pages left) were it it not exactly my field of research. =D
I have to be careful not to let the story interfere with my own dreams of the possibilities….