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Everfree    by Nick Sagan order for
by Nick Sagan
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Everfree follows Idlewild and Edenborn in Nick Sagan's brilliant and unique post-apocalyptic series that reveals what happens after Earth's population is obliterated by the devastating Black Ep. The first book administered a series of shocks - that its adolescent characters were being raised (unbeknownst to them) in a virtual reality, that the real world was empty of humanity (aside from thousands cryogenically frozen), that these young people had been genetically engineered to survive the disease and regenerate mankind, and that there was a killer in their midst. In the second book, two factions of posthumans took different approaches to raising a new generation, but a fanged serpent in that Eden again led to tragedy.

As Everfree opens, Hal has joined his peers to form an ad hoc government (he handles security) in Victory City. They've found a cure for Black Ep and are steadily resuscitating sleepers, mostly those wealthy enough to have afforded cold storage in the first place. As Hal says 'you can't just thaw and run.' The revived face a major adjustment to a new way of life - especially hard for folk who had great wealth and influence in their previous lives. Hal and Pandora (who's working on the revivals) are trying to have a baby. Though blind now, Pandora sees through her connection to AI Malachi. Hal, always the cynic, worries about the fragility of the new community, but tries to make it work for Pandora's sake.

Then, one of the splinter groups mounts a coup, the posthumans lose control and retreat to Munich, where they learn that they are not as alone as they have believed. As in the first two episodes, man's propensity for violence erupts, more original posthumans die and Hal takes an elegant revenge. In the meantime, the once psychotic - now adequately medicated and relatively sane - Fantasia has been developing her own unusual solution to mankind's problems. And Hal begins to have dreams of alien contact with 'the Free', which may be one of several seeds the author planted here for further episodes.

Though I'm thoroughly hooked on this series, I didn't enjoy Everfree as much as the first two books. It has a few too many story strands, that don't tie together as smoothly. However that caveat won't stop me from rushing to read whatever Nick Sagan writes next, and I hope that he gives us more of Hal, whose sarcastic attitude and pragmatic approach I thoroughly enjoy.

2nd Review by Tim Davis:

Decades have elapsed since a devastating plague known as Black EP - the biggest threat humankind had ever faced - annihilated billions and decimated the Earth. The world is now inhabited and controlled by a small group of posthumans (PHs), genetically engineered humans with redundant organs and enhanced immune systems. Designed during the darkest days of the plague by the biotech company Gedaechtnis - a corporation with troubling motives and methods, and with certain residual influences - the PHs now have a new set of challenges and goals: They will rebuild the promise of Earth's future; they will restart civilization off again on the right track; and their guiding principles will include The Doctrine which embraces the idea that their New World - sounding like an echo from Voltaire's Candide - 'is the best of all possible worlds.'

To reach their goal and to comply with their Doctrine, the PHs - guardians of specialized technology and protectors of the new Utopian international order - must begin making important decisions about the thousands of cryopreserved humans who had been hidden throughout the world: Who will now be reanimated? How can the restored humans be most effectively reintegrated into the new civilization? What organizational and security challenges will have to be met at each step in the process?

Among the central PH characters, the narrator (Gabriel, formerly known as Halloween or Hal) is responsible for security and threat assessment; Pandora (a physician) is Gabriel's romantic interest; Vashti is the singular expert at thawing out the cryopreserved humans, and Isaac and Champagne round out the central group of Everfree protagonists. Problems arise for the protagonists, however, when growing groups of counter-culture malcontents and other agitators (among the reanimated humans) begin advocating for a different (non-PH) approach to cultural, social, and political organization. More significantly, certain super-sensitive secrets (only known and carefully protected by PHs) are at risk of being exposed. And that is really going to change things in the Utopian New World!

With the foregoing as the skeletal plot, Everfree goes on to become a stimulating Swiftian satire and compelling cautionary tale. The brilliant Nick Sagan's targets include media culture, government and politics, corporate ethos and capitalism, and religion; moreover, as a speculative, caustic critique on the paradoxical fusion of power and freedom in an imagined future, Everfree ought to be an object lesson for everyone in 2006.

Everfree is the third installment in Sagan's thought-provoking trilogy (preceded by Idlewild and Edenborn). I confess that I have not read the first two books, but that did not interfere with my pleasure, fascination, and terror while reading Everfree; however, I must now hurry to the bookstore or library to find out what else this superbly prescient and exquisitely imaginative writer has to say about the not-so-distant future.

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