The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Nonwhite people must be wary in late twentieth century Georgia, but fleeing Ivo Archer stands still when his pursuer whispers “Swinehood hath no remedy.” The phrase from Sidney Lanier’s poem compels Ivo to accompany Harold Gorton to the secret space-borne macroscope facility where Bradley Carpenter works.

Brad and Ivo are products of a project to breed and raise highly intelligent people. Like many of the children in the project, Ivo chose an imaginary parent—in his case, Sidney Lanier—and strove to learn all he could about the poet. Brad knows that Ivo is a false personality of lesser intelligence and limited skills, created by the amoral genius Schön.

The macroscope reads both natural signals and programs from galactic civilizations. One broadcast destroys the mind of anyone intelligent enough to comprehend it. A politically ambitious U.S. senator has heard rumors of the device’s capabilities and what it has done. He comes to investigate, and Brad wants Schön to deal with the problem.

Ivo, who will be destroyed when Schön’s hidden personality emerges, is reluctant. Brad and his lovely girlfriend, Afra, cannot convince him. Brad views the mind destroyer with the senator at the politician’s demand, and both their minds are destroyed in a final attempt to force Ivo to release Schön. Ivo remains stubborn.

The powers that finance the macroscope belatedly figure out that it is the greatest spying device ever created, and they launch a ship to decommission it. The scientists on the project, unwilling to see the macroscope dismantled, hold a gaming tournament. Whoever wins will decide what is to be done with the device. Ivo, who has the necessary skills but does not understand what he is playing for, wins the contest.

Using a ship modified with alien technology, Ivo, Har-old, Harold’s wife, Beatryx, Afra, and the near-mindless Brad all flee with the macroscope....

(The entire section is 792 words.)