The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Spool-pigeon investigative television reporter) Matthew Flamen is looking at two potential exposés. One involves the huge Gottschalk arms cartel, a Mafia-run company that seems to control the entire U.S. arms industry. The other concerns the Ginsberg State Hospital for the Mentally Maladjusted in New York, a vast institution overseen by psychiatrist Elias Mogshack.

The latter story interests Flamen more because his wife, Celia, is a patient at the Ginsberg hospital. Mogshacks treatment of mental disorders relies on drugging patients into an affectless, zombielike state in which they become even more isolated than is the social norm. Mogshack claims that the process restores individuality, but Flamen suspects that it simply destroys the personality.

The hospital discharges Celia unexpectedly when it becomes overcrowded following a riot. Flamen calls in Xavier Conroy, Mogshacks sworn professional enemy, for assistance in his investigation. Another patient at the Ginsberg hospital is of unusual interest. Harry Madison, supposedly a shell-shocked U.S. Army veteran, has advanced skills in electronics. Furthermore, when he is discharged into Flamen’s custody and kidnapped, he shows almost superhuman fighting abilities.

The Gottschalk story, initially less interesting to Flamen, centers on the new computer complex that a faction of the Gottschalk “family” is building in Nevada. The new supercomputer will eliminate the cartels...

(The entire section is 438 words.)