Centuries from now, ecological disaster has overtaken the earth. Humanity is faced with two options: flee to the stars, or genetically engineer itself into a kind of creature that no longer needs to breathe the poisoned air. Against this backdrop a mysterious spy, a blind man with extrasensory vision, and a brilliant but tortured scientist struggle to alter the course of the future. Meanwhile, megacorps compete for the lucrative rights to act as humankind's savior— or to steal its soul.
The earth is a real mess in this mid-future book. It's a few generations from now, and pollution and ozone depletion have made such a mess of the planet that current temperate regions have become either desert or sweltering jungles and northern Canada and Siberia are major agricultural regions. Air filter masks are needed nearly everywhere, and exposure to sunlight can be very harmful in a matter of hours. Large numbers of people have moved to L-5 space habitats, and scientists are working on ways to adapt humans to the new environment on earth since it's too late to reverse or even slow the damage to the environment. Mega-corporations control a significant part of the economy on earth and in space. A varied group of people try to cope with the unpleasant situation, some by working to help out, some by ignoring it as best they can and getting on with their own lives.
The characters feel real, the setting is all too realistic, and the story moves along nicely. Silverberg does a great job of bringing humanity to all the characters, and their struggles in this world-gone-to-hell are fascinating. Some of the ideas may be less than 100% new (megacorps, environmental damage, etc), but this novel doesn't seem trite or hackneyed. It's a good read, and though Michael Whelan's cover art is lovely, I'm not sure what it's supposed to represent.
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