In a not too distant future the ecological mistakes of the 20th Century will have led to disaster. The melting of the polar ice cap will have flooded low-lying cities and initiated a cycle of climatic changes that mankind's technology will be unable to break. As a result, most of the U.S. will be covered by desert, pollution will make the air almost unbreathable, and ozone depletion will make even the sun dangerous. These are simple facts of everyday life in this compelling novel of intrigue by sci-fi master Robert Silverberg.
Amidst numerous twists and turns, the story focuses on a plot to overthrow the ruling government of the artificial satellite world called Valparaiso Nuevo. A shadowy figure known as the Generalissimo runs this environmental paradise as a safe haven for any who can pay for its protection. But no one can foresee the catastrophic effects of the actions of a tiny group of men who plan to oust the Generalissimo for their own selfish purposes.
Paul Carpenter is the most sympathetic of these characters, a salaryman who takes a position as a sea captain in his eternal quest for promotion in the Japanese megacorporation that controls half the world's business and industry. His fortunes decline dramatically after a mutiny on the high seas leaves him unemployable. His childhood friend, Nick Rhodes, a brilliant geneticist who is collapsing under the weight of his own ethical dilemma, introduces him to an acquaintance of his driven, opinionated girlfriend Isabelle, the seductive Jolanda. A talented sculptor and even more talented lover, Jolanda is the lynch pin of a plot that includes Enron, an Israeli spy, and Farkus, a genetically altered agent of a rival corporation. Together, their greed, suspicion, ambition, stupidity, and insatiable lust lead to a dramatic conclusion that stands as a brilliant metaphor for the destruction man has wreaked upon his own planet.
This novel features powerful, realistic characters, crushing descriptions of a ravaged earth, and a series of intense situations. Silverberg warns us that our present day course will shortly lead us to a time and place where tough decisions will routinely have to made, and their often tragic consequences accepted, simply because no better alternatives are available. The science is carefuly thought out, but includes plenty of radical surprises as well. This is a fine selection for all fans of science fiction, and a must for those who are interested in how incremental ecological changes can have enormous effects on our future.