Despite its concentration on political and media tactics, Bug Jack Barron is not really about these subjects. Many critics have missed this point. When the book was first published, it created a storm of controversy. Those reviews which did not simply deplore its four letter words and explicit sex — then rare in science fiction — praised it for its treatment of media techniques. With the exception of the bioethics issue, the deeper themes are more hidden in the novel's structure. Perhaps because of this, perhaps because they are more upbeat than savage, or perhaps because they contradict Spinrad's reputation as one of science fiction's bad boys, they have been relatively ignored.

The most obvious theme is the price of immortality. In the Foundation's procedure, it comes at the cost of another human life. Jack Barron discovers this under the grimmest of circumstances, when he is already, unwittingly, implicated in the scheme. His prior reasoning — "Who wouldn't grab the chance to be immortal?" — is thus turned upside down. Before the book is over he has paid an additional price: the suicide of his ex-wife Sara, whom he still loves. Behind these events in the novel is the suggestion that immortality, or any near equivalent, might always exact an inordinate price.

But the other interwoven themes celebrate things most of us want to believe in: the power of truth-telling, the power of democracy, the power of love. And more than...

(The entire section is 474 words.)