cover image The Child Garden, Or, a Low Comedy

The Child Garden, Or, a Low Comedy

Geoff Ryman. St. Martin's Press, $19.95 (388pp) ISBN 978-0-312-05002-3

Ryman's ( The Unconquered Country ) novel belongs to that class of SF stories in which the liberties with science go too far and destroy our suspension of disbelief, but whose rich symbolism and brightly drawn characters keep us nonetheless involved and rewarded. In a world where knowledge is transmitted by viral infection, Milena is immune and thus forced to learn from books. Because the viruses always teach the same facts the same way, the government covertly uses Milena to infuse the system with originality and creativity. Her magnum opus is a kilometers-high holographic projection of a choral rendition of Dante's Divine Comedy , visible from almost all of Earth. In the process she encounters: genetically enhanced human polar bears, living orbiting satellites, infections that cause their victims to share thoughts and movements en masse, angels created by the government and her own early childhood memories. Like her, the people who enter, change and sometimes leave her stage are game and affecting. This book won Bantam's 1989 Arthur C. Clark Award for best SF novel. (Oct.)