This simple-minded libertarian paean to American individualism follows the exploits of Frank Gilbert, the last survivor of the space colony New Horizon, as he returns to Earth to save the world.
In the future, giant non-governmental organizations control everything and engage in technology distribution, population control, genetic manipulation and chemical pacification of individuals in order to create a tractable, malleable and happy populace with no will of its own. This setup is the strongest part of By the People, which presents several disturbing and thoughtful ideas for the future. This situation arose after the Chaos Decades, a time of civil war and mass destruction that began shortly after the current day. Space colony New Horizon was launched to preserve the best people Earth has to offer, i.e. Americans, while a secondary team stayed behind to prepare for the eventual return of the explorers and to keep democracy alive in hiding. When Frank returns, they spring into action to oppose Alexander Macfarland Dunham, the totalitarian director of the Resource Allocation Council. How can one man save the entire world? Thankfully, Frank is no ordinary mortal. He’s literally perfect–extra chromosomes, psychic powers, beautiful, intelligent, athletic, etc.–too perfect, in fact. With the help of a few other inherently superior individuals–beautiful reporter Caress Sumner, beautiful secret agent Ursula Lynch, beautiful, but slightly older, American President Ms. Gwen, beautiful android Elsa Chen–the hero is able to fight an entrenched power structure that controls the entire globe. Science fiction has always been a great vehicle for expressing political ideas, but this book is too interested in fighting the battles of today, with page-long screeds about Congress and President Bush, to create a realistic world of tomorrow. In addition, Robb’s futuristic characters are too perfect to be interesting–women especially are like a cast of nearly identical mannequins with different hair and skin colors–and the technology is so advanced it borders on magic.
The future is beautiful, but boring.