The Secret of Life
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The Secret of Life

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  103 ratings  ·  14 reviews
In 2026, a strange fungus-like organism is growing in the Pacific Ocean, threatening Earth's entire food chain. Christened the slick, this bizarre life form contains alien DNA that may have come from the planet Mars. To uncover the secret of the slick, Dr. Mariella Anders is recruited by NASA to join an urgent mission to the Red Planet.
Hardcover, 413 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by Tor Books (first published 2001)
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Andy Love
Paul McAuley mines the life of Richard Feynman thoroughly* for this story of a biologist, Mariella Anders, who is faced by a challenge in biological science that may destroy the Earth, but who also is faced by the difficulties involving the conflicts between science, commerce and politics - for even in the face of a spreading biological invasion devastating the oceans of the Earth, various nations, multinational corporations, and other interest groups are more interested in using the situation t...more
If you haven't taken a graduate level genetics course, microbiology, or something of the like, you'll be hard-pressed to understand half the stuff that goes on. That being said, even though I have done the former, and taught the latter, it was still kinda heavy reading for 3 in the morning. But I did understand everything, and it actually taught or refreshed a few things in my head. It's a scary look and what might happen in the near future with gene therapy and modification, as well as geopolit...more
Set in the near-future, this novel brings a lot of interesting and thought-provoking ideas to the storyline. The "good" and "bad" of science, the idea of people desiring a different way of life on their own terms, the slow destruction of Earth and the science to fix it (improperly), and the greed and short sightedness of corporations.

The science in this is really fascinating. The idea of an organism from Mars causing crazy problems on Earth and the rush to find a solution. The adventure from Ear...more
This is a deliberate turn to the more commercial for McAuley but at the same time a return to previous endeavours, and the hard political / bioscience near future timeline he created in the wonderful and hallucinatory 'Fairyland'.

So what's the deal? Well, it isn't really about life on Mars. That's just the background for what is effectively a debate about science and society, and quite a complex debate at that. Despite the fact that there are 'daring hero(ines)' and 'big villains' in the traditi...more
The Secret of Life is a fascinating adventure through an environmentally dystopian world, through the eyes of a deeply flawed genius. The storytelling is engaging, and most of the characters are ones about whom I wanted to know more rather than less. The basic story is the quest to understand how to deal with an invasive martian bacteria which threatens to choke out earthly life, and along the way we get to see the effects of radical climactic change, people who have altered themselves, and many...more
Jun 29, 2007 Jon rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Serious scifi fans only
McAuley is no doubt a gifted author when it comes to writing about science: his physics, chemistry, and biology-oriented passages are lucid and brilliant. But his writing suffers as a whole because of his tendency to delve too deeply into those passages, sometimes to the point of sacrificing valuable pages that should have been spent forwarding the plot. In this particular book I felt he spent far too much time trying to prove the brilliance of his main character (the entire first third of the b...more
It was interesting to read a book that holds dear many ideas that scare me, most especially genetic engineering. Surprisingly, I found the heroine of this tale entirely likeable, which gave me a grip on the rather convoluted action. The writing was brisk and the dialogue good, but the use of the present tense to delineate time frames was irritating. There was a lot of technical detail and much ethical speculation. The author does succeed, in my opinion, in bringing out several sides of the class...more
I'm usually a fan of hard sciecne fiction but The Secret of Life just never caught and sustained my interest. None of the characters really stand out and the complex science that serves as the bedrock of the story, while clearly well researched and within the "what if" traditions of hard science fiction was heavy going. My first go at a book my McAuley who I have good trhings about for years. The Secret of Life was good enough for me totry another of his books when they cross my pasth but not re...more
Genetics, space exploration, exobiology, politics... Here's a great book full of suspens and twists and turns bringing up, also, good questions regarding the practices of modern science. Indeed, at the time of genetic engineering and global capitalism, what about scientific discoveries? Whom do they belong to? Science, trade, finance and politics, 'The Secret of Life' has it all.

Some annoying dialogues but, all in all it's a great piece.
Teresa O'meara
A really good read reminiscent of Carl Sagan's Contact but updated to talk about biology the way that the general focus of research has shifted from physics to biology. It also has great moments when examining academic culture. Lots of action interesting characters and a cool idea about the origin of life and the forces that shape it.
Teresa O'meara
A really good read reminiscent of Carl Sagan's Contact but updated to talk about biology the way that the general focus of research has shifted from physics to biology. It also has great moments when examining academic culture. Lots of action interesting characters and a cool idea about the origin of life and the forces that shape it.
I'm a lot dubious about this guy. He consistently keeps it all plodding along, with reasonable entertainment value, and overly plausible science. But in the end, does it reach out an bite you on the chin like my cat does? No, sadly.
Much more science that typical science fiction, more basis in the biology of what was going on and how to combat it. Very intelligent and well written, but not always gripping to go through. Felt like a very slow read.
Koji Mukai
Brilliant in places, tedious in others --- I thought this was a good novel with a flawed ending.
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Since about 2000, book jackets have given his name as just Paul McAuley.

A biologist by training, UK science fiction author McAuley writes mostly hard science fiction, dealing with themes such as biotechnology, alternate history/alternate reality, and space travel.

McAuley has also used biotechnology and nanotechnology themes in near-future settings.

Since 2001, he has produced several SF-based tech...more
More about Paul J. McAuley...
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