Death Qualified/The Best Defense Analysis

Kate Wilhelm

The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Prior to the opening of Death Qualified, Lucas Kendricks agrees to participate in scientific studies on the mathematical theories of chaos. A group of university researchers believes that by showing a sequence of carefully designed computer images of fractals to volunteer subjects, the volunteers will learn to perceive the world in new ways and will understand events that appear chaotic to most people. Lucas learns through the experiments, but most volunteers show no change.

As they run out of money, the researchers solicit male prostitutes to watch the computer images. One of the young prostitutes learns to understand the logic of chaos, and in the process, he acquires superhuman abilities. These abilities are not described in detail, but they appear similar to mental telepathy and telekinesis, only more powerful. In a fit of jealous rage, one scientist kills the successful volunteer. Because Lucas knows too much, the researchers drug him and keep him prisoner for seven years, disguised as a mentally impaired handyman.

As the book opens, Lucas escapes and travels back to his hometown of Turners Point, Oregon. He remembers everything the experiment has taught him and wants to share his new abilities with his family. As soon as he returns to his hometown, however, he is murdered, allegedly by his wife, Nell. Gifted attorney Barbara Holloway is called into town by her father, Frank, a prosperous lawyer, to help with Nell’s defense....

(The entire section is 460 words.)