The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

After being called in to help a withdrawn thirteen-year-old boy, school psychologist Dr. Peter Welles realizes that the boy, Timothy Paul, is immeasurably intelligent. Taught by his guardians that precocity is often punished as boastful exhibitionism, Tim has lived “in hiding,” masking his abilities while carrying out a secret life as an author under a variety of pseudonyms. Welles soon deduces that Tim’s intelligence is the result of a mutation caused by a disaster at an atomic power plant in “Helium City,” where his parents worked thirteen years earlier.

Realizing that other such children must exist all across the country, Welles and Tim begin to get in touch with them. Tim is able to persuade his rich grandparents to fund a special school for the superintelligent, to be run by Welles and other adults who are let in on the secret. A sizable number of the thirty surviving children are gathered at this school. Many are rescued from oppressive domestic situations, and one from an asylum. Most of them have replicated Tim’s strategy of performing remarkable work under adult aliases: They produce novels, biographies, a popular comic strip, and a successful board game. At Welles’s school they are rescued from their loneliness and allowed a chance to grow and develop.

Welles’s greatest challenge is to ensure that all the children mature in each aspect of their lives. A problem soon arises when one of the children is discovered to...

(The entire section is 422 words.)