Around 2000 I read in English the first couple of pages of a novel and never had the chance to find it again. I don't think it was very new by then; I'd guess 90's.

I think someone was in bed, possibly in a hospital, unconscious and recovering from something. The narrator (a doctor tending to the patient?) is hoping the patient pulls through, but seems dubious; also seems in awe because of "non-shivering thermogenesis", as if it was something uncommon/unexpected. Not sure they mention brown fat (the real-world mechanism for that thermogenesis).

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    @fez by the time I read that intro, NST was understood to not be possible in adult humans. So yes, it was science fiction. Only, around 2010 it was discovered that it is possible after all. Mentioning this because I don't see why the rush to assume that it's not science fiction or fantasy.
    – hmijail
    Aug 15, 2021 at 12:19
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    @Basya three close votes for 'not about Sf&F' seems more like a rush to assume rather than a check for clarity.
    – Jontia
    Aug 15, 2021 at 13:59
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    @hmijailmournsresignees - without knowing exactly what 'non-shivering thermogenesis' is the question didn't immediately appear to be SFF-nal. I should have waited a little more for you to come back with more info. Close vote retracted and I'm glad to see you've found your story!
    – fez
    Aug 15, 2021 at 15:12
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    @Basya if you click on vote to close yourself, you can trace through the options other close voters have chosen before having to commit to a vote.
    – Jontia
    Aug 15, 2021 at 17:35
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    @Jontia - I'm not there yet; I can't vote to close for another 984 reputation....I guess that's why I never have seen this....
    – Basya
    Aug 15, 2021 at 21:14

1 Answer 1


It's just possible you are thinking of the introduction to part five of Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. It isn't in the opening pages, though it is an introduction to a part of the book.

An old man sitting at sickbed. Hospital rooms are all the same. Clean, white, cool, humming, fluorescent. On the sickbed lies a man, tall, dark-skinned, thick black eyebrows. Sleeping fitfully. The old man is hunched at his head. One finger touches the skull behind the ear. Under his breath the old man is muttering. “If it’s an allergic response, then your own immune system has to be convinced that the allergen isn’t really a problem. They haven’t identified an allergen. Pulmonary edema is usually high-altitude sickness, but maybe the mix of gases caused it, or maybe it was low-altitude sickness. You need to get water out of your lungs. They’ve done pretty well with that. The fever and chills might be amenable to biofeedback. A really high fever is dangerous, you must remember that. I remember the time you came into the baths after falling into the lake. You were blue. Jackie jumped right in— no, maybe she stopped to watch. You held Hiroko and me by the arms, and we all saw you warm up. Nonshivering thermogenesis, everyone does it, but you did it voluntarily, and very powerfully as well. I’ve never seen anything like it. I still don’t know how you did it. You were a wonderful boy. People can shiver at will if they want, so maybe it’s like that, only inside. It doesn’t really matter, you don’t need to know how, you just need to do it. If you can do it in the other direction. Bring your temperature down. Give it a try. Give it a try. You were such a wonderful boy.”

The person in the sickbed is Nirgal, who is ill because he has returned to Earth only to be felled by allergies.

I suppose it's possible you might have found part five of the book published separately as an extract, or as a serialisation.

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    That's exactly it, thank you lots!
    – hmijail
    Aug 15, 2021 at 12:05
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    The episode that this character is recalling actually occurred very early on in the previous novel Green Mars, so that's another possibility for what you might be remembering.
    – David
    Aug 15, 2021 at 15:11
  • There's a Part 5! . . . hang on . . . there's a part 4?!?!?!? Aug 16, 2021 at 8:20
  • @BinaryWorrier: Part 5 of the individual book Blue Mars; not book #5 in the Mars trilogy, if that's what you're thinking.
    – ruakh
    Aug 17, 2021 at 4:33
  • Ah . . . ok . . . sorry for the confusion, I'll just be over here having a little cry so Aug 17, 2021 at 11:35

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