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Brain Wave

Brain Wave by Poul Anderson
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What if we´re all designed to be smarter than we actually are? That is, in short, the premise of master science fiction novelist Poul Anderson´s 1954 debut work, Brain Wave. Unbeknownst to its inhabitants, the solar system has, for millions of years, been caught in a force field that has had the effect of suppressing intelligence. When, in the course of normal galactic movement the solar system finally breaks free of the force field and its inhibiting effects, a remarkable change begins to sweep across the earth.

In fact, the entire world is turned upside-down, and Anderson´s novel is devoted to detailing the sometimes-surprising, sometimes-chilling after effects of this watershed event. In one of the novel´s opening scenes, Archie Brock, a mentally disabled man, finds himself suddenly awash in new kinds of thoughts as he looks up at the night sky. In another scene, a young boy on summer break works out the basic foundations of calculus before breakfast. Human life is dramatically transformed, as people with IQ´s of 400 find themselves living within social structures and institutions designed for people of considerably less intelligence. There are also those who refuse to accept what has happened and band together to rebel against the new order.

In another interesting twist, human relationships with other creatures on the planet are also thrown into upheaval, as animals rediscover their native intelligence. Archie Brock, for instance finds working on a farm with intelligent animals a frustrating, comic and confounding experience, as some animals band together and escape while others befriend their former masters.

A fascinating "what if" novel, Brain Wave is really an exploration into the ways human society is organized and the assumptions that are made about how life is valued. It is also a novel about equality and what happens when the hierarchical structures by which we arrange our daily lives disappear.

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Title: Brain Wave
Author: Poul Anderson
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