Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Unselfish Gene: Altruism and Zombies

The Unselfish Gene is the first published novel of science journalist Robert D. Burns, and it sounds like a lively mixture of pulpy science fiction-horror and genetics. The novel's blurb gives you a taste of that:
It's love and terrorism in the time of cholera. In the mid-21st century, a form of bird flu has killed billions and turned most of the rest into mindless, stumbling zombie-like invalids. The few humans who had immunity now face the threat of a comet on a collision course with Earth. Settlers from the Moon colony were spared the disease, but face their own threats to survival: radiation-induced mental illness, a limited gene pool and shrinking resources. The Moon settlers have launched a last-ditch mission to Earth to salvage human DNA and other crucial materials ... before the comet strikes. The salvage crew find the biggest threat to the mission is neither the zombies or the comet, but insanity within their own ranks.
Now if you are a biology geek like me, the first thing you think of when you hear the novel's title is Richard Dawkin's classic book on evolution The Selfish Gene. It turns out that that was indeed one of Burns's inspirations for the novel, as he told Irma Arkus in an interview on Hi-Sci-Fri (The interview begins at 22:17). They also discuss the evolution of altruism, the deleterious effects of radiation, and other sciency bits from the novel.

Read excerpts from The Unselfish Gene, and take a peek at the novel's illustrations.

Purchase The Unselfish Gene @ (affiliate link)

Bioscience books discussed on the Hi-Sci-Fi podcast:

David Sloan Wilson's Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior.

Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene

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  1. I read the start of the book and my reactions were mixed. Also, the cover is annoying. It looks like the artist was more concerned with emphasizing the figure's breasts than with showing her as actually prepared to draw the gun she carries. The stance is as awkward as that of women in porn magazines.

  2. I don't think the cover is annoying. But it depends on the likes or don't likes of the person who is watching at the pic.

  3. The cover is pure old-fashioned pulp and definitely porny. It's not appealing to me, but I'm clearly not the intended audience.


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