Tim's Reviews > Bios

Bios by Robert Charles Wilson
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really liked it
bookshelves: français, own, press, translated-books, science-fiction, reviewed

This was my first encounter with the pen of Robert Charles Wilson, and not even in its original form. His famed Spin trilogy is on my TBR-pile, also in a French (omnibus-)version: La trilogie Spin.

Bios takes place in the far future, somewhere not too far from (or inside, I didn't quite get that) the Kuiper belt (Wikipedia-page, NASA-page) and is about the colonisation of a distant planet called Isis. Isis has its own fauna (miners, more animal than human) and flora. The planet is a hostile place to anything non-native. Humans have been trying to colonise it for many years, mainly because both Earth and Isis are very much related on an evolutionary level. However, life has developed differently on Isis.

There are at least two hubs/stations for Research and Development: Marburg and Yambuku. Scientists and engineers going outside must undergo a thorough cleaning before re-entering a station. The suits they wear contain protective material and sensors. Other accessories complete the package. However, one cannot stay outside for too long, because the batteries and alike don't last for days on end. This doesn't mean that there is no supervision; there is: self-driving robots on the ground, telecommunication, scanners, ... There's always someone in the central control room to provide help/assistance when needed.

The local stations are supervised by a floating spaceship, which provides for itself: it has its own gardens, its recycling system (I forgot: the space suits also have a sort of recycling system for sweat and other fluids), and so on. Turing machines make sure there are enough resources coming from the moon.

Rescue shuttles (Higgs spheres) are very few in number and can carry only a handful of people. No one thought more would be necessary, even if there are several tens/hundreds of people (scientists, directors, the lot) involved in the project.

The project is set up and financed by two parties: the ancient Families (rich people, entrepreneurs) and a sort of company/corporation called Trusts. Mainly the latter's department Mécanismes & Personnel is responsible for the development and integration of specific tools to suppress emotions. Test objects are girls who live in an orphanage. Each of them has the same kind of "protection", though in a different form. One of them, Zoé Fisher, will be the sole survivor and sent out to investigate the environment of Isis, to prepare the way for human colonisation. Or, at least, that is the official explanation.

Zoé embarks on this mission, full of confidence and aware that she has an implant that will help her overcome any feelings of fear, stress, or emotional outbursts. (view spoiler)
Next to that, she was genetically modified to withstand attacks from harmful bacteria, in case her suit would not provide enough protection.

All is not well on a dangerous planet like Isis. Anything alien to the local environment, will be destroyed within a short period of time. Anything, not just humans, but also infrastructure, no matter the material from which it is made. Once the specific bacteria (or similar) gets inside, there's no way of stopping the invasion. When touched, it takes only a few hours before Death comes around to collect the bodies. At some point, that's what happens: Isis' ecosystem refused to allow mankind to stay any longer. So, the inevitable happened, despite the measures that were taken.

(view spoiler)

Isis is not just a planet, its ecosystem also has its own voice, its own mind, its own memory. It communicates through telepathy with Zoé (by which Isis takes on the form of someone dear to its interlocutor), as she is trapped underground and thinks about her feelings, about her time aboard one of the stations, about Tam Hayes (one of the scientists with whom she got along very well). Isis conveys a message about life, about nature, about evolution. A philosophical message, in other words.

To properly describe the world, not in the least because of the context, you get a lot of scientific wording and descriptions about the planet, the plants, the bacteria, molecules, ... Hard SF, as they call it, but not so that the wording gets in the way of the reading pleasure. Not at all; on the contrary, they're a valuable addition, I find.

The characters all have a different background (religious or otherwise) and come from different places, not necessarily the US, but also Asia, for example. The orphanage where Zoé stayed, was in Teheran, Iran, for example.


Bios is a story whose message is still relevant today, even after 20 years. Ecology, the environmental issues are very hot today (as is the weather; what climate change?), as they are in Wilson's story. Mankind has still a lot to learn about its proper planet, yet decides to "destroy" it for the love of money. Colonising other planets is out of the question, because even of those, not sufficient knowledge has been collected. Nature will find a way to respond to man's interventions, as the various viruses, floods, draughts and so on prove, time and again. And still mankind does not learn or refuses to.

Bios is recommended reading, without question. Is it RCW's best novel? Probably not (isn't Spin wearing that crown?). It is, on the other hand, an entertaining story, one with an important message (not just about nature, but also about appreciating and respecting life), and very accessible at that.


The story reminded me a bit of Lum'en by Laurent Genefort, which I read a year ago. See here.


I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust.
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Reading Progress

May 26, 2019 – Shelved
May 26, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
May 26, 2019 – Shelved as: français
May 26, 2019 – Shelved as: own
May 26, 2019 – Shelved as: press
May 26, 2019 – Shelved as: translated-books
June 6, 2019 – Shelved as: science-fiction
June 17, 2019 – Started Reading
June 21, 2019 –
page 61
20.27% "My first RCW, though the Spin-trilogy (also in French, an omnibus) has been on my TBR-pile for quite some time. Bios, so far ok, not yet that exciting. 241 pages to go."
June 23, 2019 –
page 145
June 28, 2019 –
page 223
June 30, 2019 – Shelved as: reviewed
June 30, 2019 – Finished Reading

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