The Secret Of Life Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Secret Of Life

Tor, Jun 2001, 25.95, 413 pp.
ISBN: 076530080X

    In 2026, humanity faces a new crisis. There is a humongous biological growth in the Pacific that threatens to destroy the food chain. NASA believes that the Slick is a result of a find by the Chinese on the Martian polar cap. Microbiologist Mariella Anders joins a team of scientists investigating the Martian northern icecap to determine what the Chinese actually uncovered.
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    However, the idealistic Mariella must contend with bottom line scientist Penn Brown of Cytex, who wants to monopolize whatever is discovered, especially the means to eradicate Slick. On Mars, the Chinese team working at the site where the organism was originally found flees the area as they are now contaminated. The NASA team finds samples of the original organism and Mariella makes a desperate effort to return them to earth, alienating Cytex, the Chinese, and NASA.

    THE SECRET OF LIFE is an engaging science fiction novel that once again shows how talented Paul McAuley is in getting his message across within an entertaining plot. Mr. McAuley rips extremists on either side of scientific discovery through his intrepid lead character. The greed and the ban without debate types are skewered and ridiculed for their intolerance towards the common good. However, the secret to what enables Mr. McAuley's books (see his Confluence stories) so good is he rips skin, but does so inside a believable, terse futuristic tale.

Harriet Klausner

The review of this Book prepared by Harriet Klausner

Chapter Analysis of The Secret Of Life

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Plot & Themes

FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   science fiction story Explore/1st contact/ enviro story    -   Yes Explore:    -   preventing/surviving an ecological disaster Tech./$$$/Info hunt    -   Yes Stealing/recovering/destroying    -   cure/disease/bioweapon    -   info about lifeform(s)/society/phenomena Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Identity:    -   Female Profession/status:    -   scientist Age:    -   20's-30's


A substantial portion of this book takes place on a non-Earth planetary body:    -   empty, or nearly empty world Planet outside solar system?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   no torture/death scientific jargon? (SF only)    -   a fair amount of scientific explanation How much dialogue?    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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