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Brain Child by George Turner

Brain Child

by George Turner

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200488,801 (3.41)1



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More intrigue and mystery than psychology and ethics in this story of a man's quest for his genetically enhanced roots. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
My reactions to reading this book in 1992. Spoilers follow.

This book truly deserves the distinction of being called a something of a masterpiece. That distinction is almost solely because of Turner's incredible skill with characterization. Turner's plot in this novel of genetically engineered superintelligence is (according to my reading of the "Superman" entry in The Science Fiction Encyclopedia) typical of the sub-genre of the superman: 1) the superman gracefully opts out of human society (the A Group); 2) The superman has a fatal flaw which is the result of the creation process (the B Group's death by sudden Alzheimers); 3) The superman can't stand to live on a planet of ignorant savages (C Group's suicide).

Not only is it the retrospective tale of the narrator maturing, becoming world-wise, and developing true family ties with Jonesey and his family, but all the people -- normal and the Project IQ results -- are well-drawn and show the effect of Project IQ. There is the incomprehensible abilities of the C Group (and Conrad's treating Derek Farnham like a splendid dog) in intellectual achievement and manipulation, minds who find us little better than monkeys: confusing, violent, ultimately unknowable as well as less advanced. There are the "bleak, utilitarian" minds of A Group who seem baffled by human emotive language: they laboriously translate it and clumsily fumble with expressing emotion (especially Arthur Hazard) nor can they conceive objections to plans other than logical ones. There are the manipulative, arrogant B Group.

Turner uses these Groups to make some interesting points about intelligence. First, that it is probably the interaction of many genes, and that there are many kinds of intelligence. The logical, linear reasoning of A Group, the artistic genius of B Group are not beyond normal man; however, C Group is completly beyond human ken. It is with this idea that Turner brings up one of the central themes of the novel: intelligence is of little use without equals to communicate with. It is this lack of equals that drives Conrad's attempt to set up an island of C Group children; the failure of that plan drives C Group to suicide. Lastly, Turner brings up the corollarly to this last idea: that each type of intelligence and level of intelligence must have a niche in society (equals to communicate with on the same intellectual and emotional wavelengths) to survive and thrive.

Turner does a nice job portraying the ruthless politician Sammy Armstrong who is ultimately shown as deluded as to his relationship with Belinda and the extent of his power. And I liked the sentimental Jonesey who takes David Chance under his wing (and eventually David marries into the family). I thought it was a nice change to have Chance's shadower ultimately turn out to be an aide and friend and surrogate dad. It was also nice to see an exciting, competent action plot of intrigue well and logically done with a fine touch of humanity. Sure, the Super and his Department may be corruptible, but they seem realistically reluctant to be utterly ruthless, and the Super seems honestly enraged at two deaths even if they are of Armstrong's thugs. I also liked the idea of Conrad's legacy being a picture of the true mechanisms of human genetics. I did think the sanguine acceptance by Chance and Jonesey that immortality should be rejected to be kind of weak. On the other hand, keeping another C Group out of the world, as Arthur Hazard does when he destorys the triptych, is a good reason to burn the pictures. I liked the Groups common morality of not destroying knowledge (Arthur Hazard mourns indirectly destroying C Group because, though he finds it necessary, he regards them as man's best achievement and most dangerous).

Lastly, I liked Turner's off hand slap of sf when Armstrong complains that sf writers, who he expected to support Project IQ (Armstrong believes, rightly, that entertainment is where opinions are formed), aren't interested in science -- if it intrudes on "real creativity". That seems a genuine criticism of some sf writers and also an ignorance (on Armstrong's part, not Turner's) of what sf is about. Lastly, I liked how the Anthony Burgess and Turner epigraphs that open the novel took on meaning at story's end. ( )
  RandyStafford | Dec 9, 2012 |
  rustyoldboat | May 28, 2011 |
A tightly woven and well shaped tale. I am not a great fan of this subgenre--the bio-engineered super intelligent human--yet Turner's writing and compassion, his ability to see many sides to a question, and his science made this a page-turner that I quite enjoyed. He doesn't back away from difficult subjects, and his characters are challenging to the reader, believable and at times painful to behold. Well done. ( )
  thesmellofbooks | Aug 1, 2010 |
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George Turnerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Canty, ThomasCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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