The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Shockwave Rider opens with Nick Haflinger having been captured by some government agency and being held at Tarnover. Machines force him to recall and explain his memories to an interrogator, Paul Freeman. The majority of the book alternates between past memories and present interrogation.

As Haflinger’s memories unfold, the reader discovers that the United States of the early twenty-first century is a swirl of high technology, racial tension, difficult recovery from a powerful San Francisco earthquake, and a race to discover the genetic elements of genius. This brain race has replaced the arms race among nations. Haflinger reveals his unhappy childhood; his selection, based on his genius, to attend a special secret academy designed to understand extraordinary mental capacities; and his eventual disgust at the way the academy treated people as things.

Haflinger runs away from the academy in an unfocused attempt to change the society and its small clique of elite rulers. He is able to use the nationwide computer system to switch personalities every time he believes that the government is closing in on him. At one point, he is a pastor and sees sophisticated brainwashing techniques applied to young people. At another time, he is an executive at a space technology company, where he meets Kate Lilleberg. He trusts her enough to tell her of his background. When the government once again pursues him, the two flee to a utopian colony in...

(The entire section is 447 words.)