Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Science Fiction - "Bios"

"Bios" is another book by Robert Charles Wilson (the author "Darwinia"). At the center of the story here is a planet, named Isis which contains very diverse bio-sphere. The problem is that this biosphere is lethal to humans. Any human exposed to any microbe from Isis will in very short time die a very nasty death.

The main main character of the story is a young girl, named Zoe, who has been genetically and mechanically augmented to be able to survive on Isis in light weight gear, as opposed to a fully armored space suit. Her mission is to test out the new gear in the actual environment of Isis.

The human presence on Isis consists of an orbiting space station, and three stations on the planet surface - one at the pole, one in the ocean and one on land. Zoe is sent to the ground based station, which is to be her base of operations.

Zoe gets to explore some of Bios's surface through a flying remote robot. She gets to see some of the larger animals that inhabit Isis In particular she gets to see "the diggers" - a humanoid animals that appear to have some intelligence, who live in underground tunnels (hence the name "diggers").

Shortly after her arrival on Isis she is a witness to an accident which kills a member of the stations crew. He was out fixing stations seals from the outside and his excursion suit is damanged, so that Bios's organims can enter.

While Zoe is getting ready for her first trip outside, bad things begin to happen at the ocean based station. The barrier between the station and the ocean collapses, and sections of the station become uninhabitable. A number of people die, however a small contingent manages to escape up to the space station. At the station these escapees are isolated and quaranteened to prevent any further spread of Isis's microbes.

Meanwhile Zoe goes on her first excursion. Her equipement works well and she is allowed to camp outside overnight. At one point during the night she encounters some diggers, but the encounter does not go well. She is knocked out and dragged into digger's tunnels.

At this point in the story, the microbes on Isis get an upper hand - and all the stations have to be abandoned. Even the space station is not spared.

Unlike in "Darwinia", the author does not pull a trick out of a hat, but takes the story to its logical conclusion. I actually like this - I hate these stories that are "saved" at the last minute by some miracle. There is a touch of mysticism at the end - where Zoe seems to be hearing the voice of the planet, as though Isis itself was a concious, living thing. But the author does not dwell on this.

"Bios" ends with a hopeful postscript - where humans from a later time arrive again on Isis but this time are able survive the enviroment without any problems due to genetic modifications.


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