The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In the futuristic London of The Child Garden (subtitled A Low Comedy), bioengineered viruses infect people with common knowledge. Babies can add, and five-year-olds quote William Shakespeare. The viruses were designed to cure cancer. Unfortunately, the cure is worse than the disease, because cells now lack the ability to reproduce after a person reaches the age of thirty-five, halving the normal human life span.

The Consensus governs. It comprises personality copies of all the people who are “read” into it. Reading usually occurs when a person reaches ten years of age. After the reading, a person is given viruses to destroy any undesirable traits.

Milena is virus resistant. She is attracted to women (which is considered “bad grammar”), and the Consensus does not read her because she is unique and creative. She is unhappy as an actress because plays are now being performed as “remembered” and not as vital productions. She meets Rolfa, who is a genetically engineered person resembling a polar bear. Rolfa is a singer who has created an original opera based on Dante’s The Divine Comedy (c. 1320). Milena comes to love Rolfa and wants her to get the benefits of the Consensus—including housing and food—so that she can continue producing her music. She arranges for Rolfa to be read and infected with viruses. It is not until Rolfa is infected that Milena discovers that Rolfa is also attracted to her. The...

(The entire section is 560 words.)