Bloom by Wil McCarthy was originally published in 1998. My hardcover copy is 310 pages. There were a few places where Bloom threatened to lose it's pace and my readership behind but the end is well worth any bumpy spots overcome to get there. I enjoyed Bloom and recommend it. Rating: 3.5
(Actually, my desire to read has flagged a bit since The Usual Rules. It opened up a whole 9/11 Pandora's box of recollections from that time and makes me feel even more that Maynard's use of 9/11 as her vehicle to explore grief in a teen girl was irresponsible.)
From Publishers Weekly at Amazon:
Although set in the 22nd century, this transcendent tale of close encounters with awesome life forms echoes current anxieties over the godlike manipulations of bioengineering. Following the total engulfment of Earth and the planets of the inner solar system by mycora, a manmade species of self-replicating fungus that has developed a ravenous appetite for inorganic matter, the remnants of the human race have fled to the moons of Jupiter. Loosely organized as the Immunity, they keep a watchful eye on the encroaching Mycosystem and stamp out the horrific "blooms" by which the technogenic spores literally eat their way into a territory. The Immunity's goal is to relocate to a cleaner planetary system, but not without first investigating transmissions that improbably suggest human life may still exist on Earth. This provokes acts of sabotage by the Temples of Transcendent Evolution, who revere the Mycosystem as "some sort of hyperintelligence, maybe a direct link to God himself," and fear that the mission's covert objective is "deicide." McCarthy (Murder in the Solid State) relates the challenging clash of technology and theory that follows through the experiences of John Strasheim, a freelance journalist onboard the Earth-bound starship Louis Pasteur. The writing is vivid?particularly in sequences that describe the chaos of bloom alerts?but it's also challenging: technojargon casually spoken by the Pasteur-nauts can be so stultifying that it gives the events and people described the dispassionate feel of a virtual reality simulation. Readers who can plug into the prose and navigate its dense circuitry, however, will find themselves rewarded with a wallop of a finale that satisfies high expectations for high-concept SF. Agent, Shawna McCarthy.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"This much we know: that the Innensburg bloom began with a single spore; that Immune response was sluggish and ineffective; that the first witness on the scene....broke the emergency glass, dropped two magnums and a witch's tit and died." first sentence
"[W]hat you probably haven't heard is that they're stealing data gene sequences from our own phages." pg. 13
"The ship's interior was slightly smaller than my tiny house in Philusburg, and the mission would last 280 days, or just a hair over nine months. It sounded like a boarding-school nightmare, a crowded, bickering nightmare of bunk-bed privacy and no possibility of escape." pg. 17
"We didn't evacuate many animals with us, did we? Of course there wasn't much time - it's hard to blame us when the hills around the spaceport were literally dissolving..." pg. 23
"[T]he Temples of Transcendent Evolution have managed over the past two decades to colonize nearly every corner of the Immunity....But in Innesburg their branch temple was burned to the ground last year..." pg 26
"So when the Earth's biosphere was fully converted, there was nothing left to decompose. The mycora should have died, but they didn't. Instead, they very rapidly developed photo- and chemosynthetic pathways which allowed them to use inorganic matter in their reproduction.... they've done a much better job of vivifying the Earth than organic life ever did." pg. 51