Monday, August 12, 2013

The Giving Plague (Brin)

The Giving Plague, by David Brin, 1987

I don't usually review short stories, but I downloaded this for free onto my iPad and read it with my Kindle app in the same way that I read a lot of books. And since I re-launching my reading list blog, it doesn't hurt to start a little smaller.

First off, if I hadn't read the afterword, I wouldn't have realized that this story was written over 25 years ago. It hasn't dated. What makes that notable is the fact that it was written at the height of the AIDS epidemic, when the public was finally aware of what the disease was and what it was capable of doing. It's not an "AIDS story", but you can see how a plague of that kind influenced it. (Another way of putting that: if it had been written a few years later, it might have been inspired by, say, the ebola virus.)

The story is narrated by a biologist who makes a discovery about a new virus spreading through the population with an unusual property: it makes people more altruistic, starting with a desire to donate blood, which is how the virus seems to spread. Research and ethical questions follow and do consequences and possibilities of accolades and Nobel prizes.

An interesting little story, which isn't dated at all. If anything, now that AIDS is being tamed, it has to make you wonder what could come next that AIDS seem like a case of chicken pox.

"The Giving Plague" should be available for free for ereaders. The story can be found in its entirety on Brin's website in HTML form, usable by any browser.

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