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Emergence    by David R. Palmer order for
by David R. Palmer
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 1984
* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

'Nothing to do? Nowhere to go? Time hangs heavy? Bored? Depressed? Also badly scared? Causal factors beyond control? Unfortunate. Regrettable. Vicious cycle-snake swallowing own tail. Mind dwells on problems: problems fester, assume ever greater importance for mind to dwell on. Etc. Bad enough where problems minor. Mine aren't.'

These are the opening sentences in the journal of Candidia Maria Smith-Foster, an eleven-year-old girl isolated with her retarded adopted twin brother Terry in her foster father's elaborately designed bomb shelter. Terry is a macaw, and Candy is one of a number of very special people, in her own words 'Homo post hominem is new species, apparently immune to all 'human' diseases, plus smarter, stronger, faster, etc., emerging to inherit Earth after H. sapiens eliminated selves in short, efficient bionuclear war.'

When Candy emerges at last from the shelter, she learns of the possibility of other survivors, and sets off across an America emptied of human life to search for them. Her first encounter is when she rescues from his crashed and blazing car another Post Hominem (close to her own age but male) and almost dies herself as a result of her superhuman exertions. 'Adam' nurses her back to health and they set out again together.

The story of Candy's travels, and her encounters with other survivors, is action filled and exciting, culminating in one of the most extended dramatic sequences of any book, but it is Candy herself who, writing it down in her journal in her own inimitable style, makes this book a true classic of its kind. Most readers, male and female, will fall in love immediately with Candy, who is a truly delightful character, but others particularly Terry and 'Adam' are equally well drawn and interesting.

The first two chapters of the novel were originally published in 1981 and 1983 issues of the SF magazine Analog, and were immediately recognized as being of the highest quality and depth of imagination. The 1984 novel expanded that promise superbly. In my opinion, Emergence is one of the best, if not the absolute best, of all the post-apocalyptic SF novels.

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