Brain Plague

Joan Slonczewski, Author
Joan Slonczewski, Author Tor Books $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-86718-8
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Mass Market Paperbound - 384 pages - 978-0-8125-7914-7
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Slonczewski adds a new chapter to her evolving saga of the pangalactic Fold (The Children Star; A Door into Ocean; Daughter of Elysium) with this provocative if coolly clinical meditation on nanotechnology, artistic creativity and godhood. On Valedon, a planet of genetically modified humans, struggling artist Chrysoberyl of Dolomoth (Chrys to her friends) agrees to be colonized by Eleutherian micros, an accelerated culture of sentient cells salvaged from an assassinated colleague. The micros, which infiltrate her body and communicate with her neurally in the voices of Old Testament supplicants praying to their god, initially mean nothing to Chrys but a full bank account and full health insurance. But soon they are enhancing her art, serving as collaborators and subjects and garnering her a commission to design the planet's first new city in centuries. Inevitably, the replicating micros breed rebellious individuals who challenge Chrys's divine infallibility. For all its innovations, the novel features its share of clich s (the archetypal avant-garde art scene Chrys belongs to; the medieval character of micro society) and grows repetitive in its chronicle of Chrys's periodic purges of blasphemous micros and her endangerment by infected slave carriers. Slonczewski shows imaginative breadth of vision in her depiction of nanotechnology's pervasive impact on Fold civilization, however, and her narrative, though hip-deep in biotech jargon, is rich in subtle analyses of the relationships between individuals and societies, art and life, the organic and inorganic, health and disease, free will and personal responsibility, and spiritual and scientific aspirations. (Aug.)
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