The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Dr. Martine, a neurosurgeon serving in emergency capacity during a computerized nuclear war, abandons his post at a field hospital and retreats to a remote island in the Indian Ocean. He spends the next twenty years as doctor to the native community and performs limited lobotomies on its psychopathic members in accordance with tribal ceremony. When a group of English-speaking strangers—all with bizarre artificial limbs— arrives, apparently searching for metal alloys, Martine’s curiosity prompts him to leave his native wife and son and return to the remnants of advanced civilization.

What he discovers is a perverse society of “vol-amps,” people who hope to curb their aggressive impulses by amputating their own limbs. “Immob” culture dictates that only total immobilization will guarantee world peace. Despite this, most citizens of the Inland Strip and the Eastern Union (remains of the Western capitalist and Eastern Communist hemispheres, respectively) have affixed cybernetic prosthetics to their bodies. These android limbs possess qualities of strength and dexterity far superior to natural tissues. A radical minority of “Anti-Pros,” who remain ambulatory “basket cases,” protest use of prosthetics, claiming that society must proceed “unarmed.”

The horrified Martine discovers that these social concepts are derived from a literal reading of a satirical dialogue he had committed to a notebook during his field hospital days....

(The entire section is 442 words.)