The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Thirty-two-year-old Vergil Ulam is a brilliant but undisciplined bioengineer at the Genetron laboratories in La Jolla, California. This area is known as Enzyme Valley, the biochip equivalent of Silicon Valley. His pet project is what he calls “biologic,” the development of “thinking” lymphocytes that he describes as autonomous organic computers. When his employer learns that Ulam has been conducting this research for the past two years on mammalian cells, Ulam is fired. Before he leaves the building, he injects himself with the cells and destroys the records of his research.

Ulam had hoped to retrieve the lymphocytes from his system and continue his research. Two weeks later, though, he still has not found access to a lab, and he knows that it is too late to remove the altered cells. The first changes to his system that he notices are a craving for sweets, better eyesight, and a better sex life. When he realizes that there is no turning back, he visits his clairvoyant mother. She immediately discerns that his experiment has gotten beyond her son’s control but that it is his life’s work.

Ulam concludes that the lymphocytes have developed the capacity to spread their biologic to other types of cells and that they could migrate outside his body. He visits Edward Milligan, a school friend, and explains his theory that human DNA has spent millions of years building to a climax that is now expressing itself in Ulam’s experiment, which...

(The entire section is 557 words.)