Cover image for Brain plague
Brain plague
Slonczewski, Joan.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Tor, [2000]

Physical Description:
384 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
Format :


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Brain Plague is the new hard SF novel by Joan Slonczewski, set in the same future universe as her award-winning A Door into Ocean and The Children Star (a New York Times Notable Book). An intelligent microbe race that can live symbiotically in other intelligent beings is colonizing the human race throughout the civilized universe.And each colony of microbes has its own personality, good or bad. In some people, carriers, they are brain enhancers, and in others a fatal brain plague, a living addiction. This is the story of one woman's psychological and moral struggle to adjust to having an ambitious colony of microbes living permanently in her own head. This novel is one of the most powerful and involving SF novels of the year. AUTHORBIO: Joan Slonczewski lives in Gambier, Ohio and teaches biology at Kenyon College.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The third book about the biotech-oriented, far-future universe of Slonczewski's Door into Ocean (1986) features a race of symbiotic, sapient microbes that are both a blessing and a curse to their human hosts. Each colony of microbes has a distinct personality and internal politics. Some colonies are thoroughly destructive, turning humans into vampires and slaves who are worked to death to give the microbes' home planet nuclear technology. The artist Chrisoberyl's colony will enhance her talent in exchange for her tolerating its hospitality to political refugees from other colonies. So doing, she is sucked into the deadly intrigues swirling around the attempts to find the microbes' home planet and end the danger of microbe-induced brain plague. She survives to help achieve victory, find love, and improve her art. Slonczewski's world building is magnificent, and the moderately paced story can be read as both a futuristic biotech thriller and a feminist and pacifist satire of human politics. Although it may not be to everyone's taste, this tale is impossible to dismiss. --Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

Slonczewski adds a new chapter to her evolving saga of the pangalactic Fold (The Children Star; A Door into Ocean; Daughter of Elysium) with this provocative if coolly clinical meditation on nanotechnology, artistic creativity and godhood. On Valedon, a planet of genetically modified humans, struggling artist Chrysoberyl of Dolomoth (Chrys to her friends) agrees to be colonized by Eleutherian micros, an accelerated culture of sentient cells salvaged from an assassinated colleague. The micros, which infiltrate her body and communicate with her neurally in the voices of Old Testament supplicants praying to their god, initially mean nothing to Chrys but a full bank account and full health insurance. But soon they are enhancing her art, serving as collaborators and subjects and garnering her a commission to design the planet's first new city in centuries. Inevitably, the replicating micros breed rebellious individuals who challenge Chrys's divine infallibility. For all its innovations, the novel features its share of clich‚s (the archetypal avant-garde art scene Chrys belongs to; the medieval character of micro society) and grows repetitive in its chronicle of Chrys's periodic purges of blasphemous micros and her endangerment by infected slave carriers. Slonczewski shows imaginative breadth of vision in her depiction of nanotechnology's pervasive impact on Fold civilization, however, and her narrative, though hip-deep in biotech jargon, is rich in subtle analyses of the relationships between individuals and societies, art and life, the organic and inorganic, health and disease, free will and personal responsibility, and spiritual and scientific aspirations. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

To enhance her art and protect herself from the deadly microbial brain plague affecting her world, Chrysoberyl agrees to act as host for a colony of beneficial microbes"only to find that the tiny creatures inhabiting her body have their own agenda. Set in the same universe as A Door into Ocean and The Children Star, Slonczewski!s latest novel examines the creative process through the mind of a woman caught up in the temptation to play God to her inner voices. The author blends a quirky humor with deep insights into the human mind in a mesmerizing story that belongs in most sf collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.