A seductive and intelligent novel about love and freedom set in a dreamlike near future.
This time out, Nova (Brook Trout and the Writing Life, 1999, etc.) imagines a mutated urban landscape in which something as commonplace as fashion becomes an unspoken looming terror: fall behind the latest trends, or jump on a fad too soon, and find yourself without a job or home. Echoing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? R.U.R., and 1984, the story has an allegorical quality that derives from both its nonspecificity (something big happened that changed the world, but we don't know what) and from the interplay of the solid with the abstract (clones with a sense of unnamed longing). Thirty years from now, genetic engineer Briggs works for Galapagos Technologies, designing both total immersion computer games and novelties like souvenir mice that say, “I met you at the Seattle World's Fair.” Amid life-or-death corporate politics, Briggs risks all to write improper code for a pair of clones: Jack and Kay. Commissioned for unpleasant tasks like assassination, they become Briggs’s Adam and Eve. Jack is a deadly mathematical genius; Briggs gives Kay musical talents that make her listeners question their every belief; he also writes into her his own inner life and a need to be with him. Unknown to Briggs, his colleague Carr sneaks code into Kay to get revenge on an Ayn-Randian businessman with whom she had a fling. When Jack and Kay escape into the city, the lives and careers of Briggs and his bosses are endangered, as is humanity: not only can Jack and Kay reproduce, they might be carrying a new pathogen. While Briggs dodges death, corporate and real, Jack and Kay explore the world of sensation and the limits of free will in the short time they have.
Odd and oddly moving, with a strange mix of platonic shadow and human detail giving it a lingering power.