The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

For the past one hundred million years, Earth has been passing through some sort of force field that inhibits brain functions. As the story opens, Earth has moved out of the field’s power, with the result that earthly brains now possess much more intelligence. The majority of the story explains the results of this change on science, religion, government, and other elements of society. The plot is somewhat disjointed because Poul Anderson often switches characters and locale. This approach gives the novel a realistic, journalistic-like feel.

The opening pages describe intellectual improvements in an animal, a mentally retarded human (Archie Brock), and an intelligent ten-year-old boy. On the estate where he works, Archie sees changes in animals and begins to realize what has happened to him. Eventually, all the employees except Archie leave for better prospects elsewhere. Newspaper reports are included to show the wide scope of the changes.

Several scientists, including Peter Corinth, Felix Mandelbaum, Nat Lewis, and Helga Arnulfson, discuss these changes among themselves and with their families. Peter Corinth, a resident of New York City, walks to work and reflects on the changes he sees around him.

At this point, Anderson summarizes some of the large-scale effects in language and natural science. Other places around the world are shown dealing with their own changes. In Africa, a group of black people headed by M’Wanzi...

(The entire section is 559 words.)