Every once in a while, a writer from outside the SF community gets touched by our peculiar muse, and produces an excellent work that is recognizably SF, or at least something damn close to it. Books like this make the true believers grind their teeth and mutter “if only SF wasn’t considered a subliterary genre, then books like this would be published as SF, and people who liked them would actually deign to consider reading other SF books.”
Then, every once in a while, we encounter books like Prodigy, which do not bear the imprint of any SF publishing house, and thank God and Campbell for that. This tale, by a man who was “kicked out of several prep schools”, is about the prep school of the future: Stansbury, which charges $500K tuition (in 2036 dollars) to cultivate young minds using nonunion labor, cutting-edge drugs, and a rigorous educational program, thus turning out hordes of young men and women ready to
fight aliens become leaders of science, industry, and athletics. The murder-mystery-cum-thriller plot is nothing special; this book is distinguished by such thrilling flights of speculation as:
The rubber-Teflon blend in the soles of Smith’s work boots…gripped the slick pavement as he pivoted into an alley off 3rd Street on Avenue R.
Wow, it’s a good thing the sneaker companies of the future thought to mix rubber with the Teflon in their soles, so that the shoes could grip the pavement better.
The dopazone molecules transferred digitally from the site’s mainframe server to Cooley’s terminal by bouncing in between thirty-eight separate destinations, all of which were decoys designed to throw off Stansbury’s built-in security system…. The dopazone molecules rode the electric currents and shot through the wrist cuff, transferring past the skin and into his bloodstream.
I’ve heard of Internet addiction, but really...!
Nothing to see here for anyone with a passing knowledge of science fiction, except perhaps as an object lesson in How Not To. If you run into any non-fen who have read this book and actually liked it, please beg them to pick up some SF thriller by a writer who’s actually competent.