Generosity: An Enhancement by Richard Powers

 This is the first book by this author that I have read. He apparently has a reputation for meshing the world of science into his fictional stories. That does occur in this story, and to my taste, to an extent that is a little bit pedantic, but not unwieldy. The book has three swirling, co-occuring narratives. The overarching story is that there is a woman with a highly traumatized past, Thassa Amzwar. She is a Berber Algerian who has seen countless people die, including some closest to her. She is not dismissive of the trauma, nor is she in denial about them. She simply appears to be unaffected by them in a way that disturbs her teacher. She is too happy for his taste. She is happier than anyone he know, and she is always happy. it doesn’t wax and wane, it is a constant. She is tremendously engaging, the center of every group she is part of. The book doesn’t point this out, but her popularity doesn’t have a detrimental effect on her personality. She is not entitled because of it, which makes her even more attractive. He wonders if she is ill, and consults a psychologist about her, who reassures him this is not mental illness. It is at this point the book takes a leap, a blend of an improbable attack on Thassa combined with an improbable response to a comment that Russell makes. He unwittingly unleashes his thoughts about her onto the world. The improbable thing is that someone, in this 24/7 era of information overload, actually listens. With disasterous consequences for both Russell and Thassa. It works, this spin out of events, and the book’s perspective is that you can forsee each ensuing disaster just a moment before it happens, so the reader feels pretient. Always a nice feeling, and it keeps you hurdling onward to the end. The book is exceptionally well written, so even though I might quibble about the science, the story itself is a finely woven one that is both hyperbolic and believable, a rare blend.

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