Literature / Blood Music

Blood Music is a science fiction novel by Greg Bear.

Biotechnologist Vergil Ulam creates simple biological computers based on his own lymphocytes ('noocytes'). After his employer orders him to destroy them, Vergil injects them into his own body with the intention of smuggling them out to work on them elsewhere. They attain self-awareness, and Hilarity Ensues.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Apocalypse How: Class 1, with the assimilation of North America, plus all the interesting aftereffects of the nano-civilization slightly breaking reality.... Actually, all the Class-es, Severit-ies and Scope-s by the end of the book (in chronological succession, from smallest to biggest), if you count Humanity becoming a race of Reality Warpers with perhaps even Multiverse level editing powers as a sub-type of The End of the World as We Know It trope that is.
  • Apocalypse Wow: The Earth dissolves into a sphere of noocytes, which combined proceed to break reality to such an extent they then Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, taking the Earth and humanity with them.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The noocytes have to do this, since their presence is breaking reality. Everybody else too.
  • Assimilation Plot
  • Bio-Augmentation: Vergil injecting the biological computers into himself. Augmentation indeed...
  • Bio Punk: To this what Neuromancer is to Cyber Punk.
  • Deus ex Machina: The Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence is a case of this.
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: In most cases, the spreading infection assmilates humans almost instantly, leaving only their clothes.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Vergil drives into Livermore, California, and passes a Guinevere's Pizza. From the local description, this fictional pizza place is exactly where a Round Table Pizza existed at the time.
  • From a Single Cell: The noocytes are able to encode the squishy chemical versions of people into molecular memories based on DNA/RNA. The noocytes can rebuild and upload the original person — or an amalgam of all who want to participate — back into a squishy flesh body should they so wish.
  • Gray Goo: Pretty much the first story to explore such a catastrophe just a year before K. Eric Drexler's book Engines of Creation came out.
  • LEGO Genetics
  • Nanomachines: Technically biological in origin, but on the nano-scale the line between organism and machine is blurry anyway.
  • Patient Zero: Ulam. He's killed by his friend in a failed attempt to stop the noocyte outbreak.
  • Reality Warper: Bear frequently explores the idea that the observer in fact shapes the observed reality. For example, towards the end of Blood Music the entirety of North America is covered by a biological mass where each cell acts as an individual observer. The sheer concentration of this threatens to cause reality to break apart.
  • The Singularity: After assimilating most of North America, the new civilization is forced to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence to avoid breaking reality with their sheer awesomeness. They actually 'do' break it..and the Multiverse too.
  • Synthetic Plague: Oops.