Brain Wave

Brain Wave

by Poul Anderson

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Overview

Brain Wave by Poul Anderson

From the multiple Hugo and Nebula Award–winning author: “A panoramic story of what happens to a world gone super intelligent” (Astounding Science Fiction).
 
With “wonderfully logical detail . . . exciting storytelling and moving characterization” (Anthony Boucher), science fiction master Poul Anderson explores what happens when the next stage of evolution is thrust upon humanity and animals. As Earth passes out of a magnetic field that has suppressed intelligence for eons, the mental capacity for all mammals increases exponentially, radically changing the structures of society.
 
A mentally impaired farm worker finds himself capable of more delicate and intelligent thoughts than he ever dreamed. A young boy on holiday manages to discern the foundations of calculus before breakfast. Animals that were seen as livestock and pets can now communicate clearly with their owners and one another. And an already brilliant physics researcher now uses his boundless intellect to bring humankind to the stars—even as his wife plunges into an existential crisis. For all of them, the world will never be the same . . .
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504053679
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 09/18/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 212
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Poul Anderson (1926–2001) grew up bilingual in a Danish American family. After discovering science fiction fandom and earning a physics degree at the University of Minnesota, he found writing science fiction more satisfactory. Admired for his “hard” science fiction, mysteries, historical novels, and “fantasy with rivets,” he also excelled in humor. He was the guest of honor at the 1959 World Science Fiction Convention and at many similar events, including the 1998 Contact Japan 3 and the 1999 Strannik Conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Besides winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, he has received the Gandalf, Seiun, and Strannik, or “Wanderer,” Awards. A founder of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he became a Grand Master, and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

In 1952 he met Karen Kruse; they married in Berkeley, California, where their daughter, Astrid, was born, and they later lived in Orinda, California. Astrid and her husband, science fiction author Greg Bear, now live with their family outside Seattle.
Poul Anderson (1926–2001) grew up bilingual in a Danish American family. After discovering science fiction fandom and earning a physics degree at the University of Minnesota, he found writing science fiction more satisfactory. Admired for his “hard” science fiction, mysteries, historical novels, and “fantasy with rivets,” he also excelled in humor. He was the guest of honor at the 1959 World Science Fiction Convention and at many similar events, including the 1998 Contact Japan 3 and the 1999 Strannik Conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Besides winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, he has received the Gandalf, Seiun, and Strannik, or “Wanderer,” Awards. A founder of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he became a Grand Master, and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

In 1952 he met Karen Kruse; they married in Berkeley, California, where their daughter, Astrid, was born, and they later lived in Orinda, California. Astrid and her husband, science fiction author Greg Bear, now live with their family outside Seattle.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The trap had closed at sundown. In the last red light, the rabbit had battered himself against its walls until fear and numbness ached home and he crouched shaken by the flutterings of his own heart. Otherwise there was no motion in him as night and the stars came. But when the moon rose, its light was caught icily in his great eyes, and he looked through shadows to the forest.

His vision was not made to focus closely, but after a while it fell on the entrance to the trap. It had snapped down on him when he entered, and then there had been only the flat bruising beat of himself against the wood. Now slowly, straining through the white unreal haze of moon light, he recalled a memory of the gate falling, and he squeaked ever so faintly with terror. For the gate was there now, solid and sullen against the breathing forest, and yet it had been up and had come thunking down, and this now — then doubleness was something the rabbit had never known before.

The moon rose higher, swinging through a sky full of stars. An owl hooted, and the rabbit froze into movelessness as its wings ghosted overhead. There was fear and bewilderment and a new kind of pain in the owl's voice, too. Presently it was gone, and only the many little murmurs and smells of night were around him. And he sat for a long time looking at the gate and remembering how it had fallen.

The moon began to fall too, into a paling western heaven.

Perhaps the rabbit wept a little, in his own way. A dawn which was as yet only a mist in the dark limned the bars of the trap against grey trees. And there was a crossbar low on the gate.

Slowly, very slowly, the rabbit inched across until he was at the entrance. He shrank from the thing which had clamped him in. It smelled of man. Then he nosed it, feeling dew cold and wet on his muzzle. It did not stir. But it had fallen down.

The rabbit crouched, bracing his shoulders against the crossbar. He strained then, heaving upward, and the wood shivered. The rabbit's breath came fast and sharp, whistling between his teeth, and he tried again. The gate moved upward in its grooves, and the rabbit bolted free.

For an instant he poised wildly. The sinking moon was a blind dazzle in his eyes. The gate smacked back into place, and he turned and fled.

Archie Brock had been out late grubbing stumps in the north forty. Mr. Rossman wanted them all pulled by Wednesday so he could get the plowing started in his new field, and promised Brock extra pay if he would see to it. So Brock took some dinner out with him and worked till it got too dark to see. Then he started walking the three miles home, because they didn't let him use the jeep or a truck.

He was tired without thinking of it, aching a little and wishing he had a nice tall beer. But mostly he didn't think at all, just picked them up and laid them down, and the road slid away behind him. There were dark woods on either side, throwing long shadows across the moon-whitened dust, and he heard the noise of crickets chirring and once there was an owl. Have to take a gun and get that owl before he swiped some chickens. Mr. Rossman didn't mind if Brock hunted.

It was funny the way he kept thinking things tonight. Usually he just went along, especially when he was as tired as now, but — maybe it was the moon — he kept remembering bits of things, and words sort of formed themselves in his head like someone was talking. He thought about his bed and how nice it would have been to drive home from work; only of course he got sort of mixed up when driving, and there'd been a couple of smashups. Funny he should have done that, because all at once it didn't seem so hard: just a few signals to learn, and you kept your eyes open, and that was all.

The sound of his feet was hollow on the road. He breathed deeply, drawing a cool night into his lungs, and looked upward, away from the moon. The stars were sure big and bright tonight.

Another memory come back to him, somebody had said the stars were like the sun only farther away. It hadn't made much sense then. But maybe it was so, like a light was a small thing till you got up close and then maybe it was very big. Only if the stars were as big as the sun, they'd have to be awful far away.

He stopped dead, feeling a sudden cold run through him. Jesus God! How far up the stars were!

The earth seemed to fall away underfoot, he was hanging on to a tiny rock that spun crazily through an everlasting darkness, and the great stars burned and roared around him, so far up that he whimpered with knowing it.

He began to run.

The boy rose early, even if it was summer and no school and breakfast wouldn't be for a while yet. The street and the town outside his windows looked very clean and bright in the young sunshine. A single truck clattered down the road and a man in blue denim walked towards the creamery carrying a lunch pail, otherwise it was as if he had the whole world to himself. His father was already off to work, and Mom liked to go back to bed for an hour after fixing his breakfast, and Sis was still asleep, so the boy was all alone in the house.

His friend was coming over and they'd go fishing, but first he wanted to get some more done on his model plane. He washed as thoroughly as you could ask a ten-year-old to, snatched a roll from the pantry, and went back to his room and the littered table there. The plane was going to be a real beauty, a Shooting Star with a C02 cartridge to make a jet. Only somehow, this morning it didn't look as good as it had last night. He wished he could make a real jet motor for it.

He sighed, pushing the work away, and took a sheet of paper. He'd always liked to doodle around with numbers, and one of the teachers had taught him a little about algebra. Some of the fellows had called him teacher's pet for that, till he licked them, but it was real interesting, not just like learning multiplication tables. Here you made the numbers and letters do something. The teacher said that if he really wanted to build spaceships when he grew up, he'd have to learn lots of math.

He started drawing some graphs. The different kinds of equations made different pictures. It was fun to see how x=ky+c made a straight line while x2+y2=c was always a circle. Only how if you changed one of the x's, made it equal 3 instead of 2? What would happen to the y in the meantime? He'd never thought of that before!

He grasped the pencil tightly, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth. You had to kind of sneak up on the x and the y, change one of them just a weeny little bit, and then —

He was well on the way to inventing differential calculus when his mother called him down to breakfast.

CHAPTER 2

Peter Corinth came out of the shower, still singing vigorously, to find Sheila busy frying bacon and eggs. He ruffled her soft brown hair up, kissing her on the neck, and she turned to smile at him.

"She looks like an angel and cooks like an angel," he said.

"Why, Pete," she answered, "you never — "

"Never could find words," he agreed. "But it's gospel truth, me love." He bent over the pan, inhaling the crisp odor with a contented sigh. "I have a hunch this is one of those days when everything will go right," he said. "A bit of Hubris for which the gods will doubtless visit a Nemesis on me. Ate: Gertie, the slut, will burn out a tube. But you'll amend it all."

"Hubris, Nemesis, Ate." A tiny frown creased her broad clear forehead. "You've used those words before, Pete. What do they mean?"

He blinked at her. Two years after marriage, he was still far gone in love with his wife, and as she stood there his heart turned over within him. She was kind and merry and beautiful and she could cook — but she was nothing of an intellectual, and when his friends came over she sat quietly back, taking no part in the conversation. "What do you care?" he asked.

"I was just wondering," she said.

He went into the bedroom and began dressing, leaving the door open so he could explain the basis of Greek tragedy. It was much too bright a morning to dwell on so somber a theme, but she listened closely, with an occasional question. When he came out, she smiled and went over to him.

"You dear clumsy physicist," she said. "You're the only man I ever knew who could put on a suit straight from the cleaners and make it look like you'd been fixing a car in it." She adjusted his tie and pulled down the rumpled coat. He ran a hand through his black hair, immediately reducing it to unkemptness, and followed her to the kitchenette table. A whiff of steam from the coffeepot fogged his horn-rimmed glasses, and he took them off and polished them on his necktie. His lean, broken-nosed face looked different without them — younger, perhaps, only the thirty-three years which was his actual age.

"It came to me just when I woke up," he said as he buttered his toast. "I must have a well-trained subconscious after all."

"You mean the solution to your problem?" asked Sheila.

He nodded, too absorbed to consider what her query meant. She usually just let him run on, saying "yes" and "no" in the right places but not really listening. To her, his work was altogether mysterious. He had sometimes thought she lived in child's world, with nothing very well known but all of it bright and strange.

"I've been trying to build a phase analyzer for intermolecular resonance bonds in crystal structure," he said. "Well, no matter. The thing is, I've been plugging along for the past few weeks, trying to design a circuit which would do what I wanted, and was baffled. Then I woke up just this morning with an idea that might work. Let's see —" His eyes looked beyond her and he ate without tasting. Sheila laughed, very softly.

"I may be late tonight," he said at the door. "If this new idea of mine pans out, I may not want to break off work till — Lord knows when. I'll call you."

"Okay, honey. Good hunting."

When he was gone, Sheila stood for a moment smiling after him. Pete was a — well, she was just lucky, that was all. She'd never really appreciated how lucky, but this morning seemed different, somehow. Everything stood out sharp and clear, as if she were up in the Western mountains her husband loved so well.

She hummed to herself as she washed the dishes and straightened up the apartment. Memory slid through her, the small-town Pennsylvania girlhood, the business college, her coming to New York four years ago to take a clerical job at the office of a family acquaintance. Dear God, but she had been unsuited for that kind of life! One party and boy friend after another, everybody fast- talking, jerky-moving, carefully hard-boiled and knowing, the expensive and market-wise crowd where she always had to be on her guard — All right, she'd married Pete on the rebound, after Bill walked out calling her a stupid — never mind. But she'd always liked the shy, quiet man, and she had been on the rebound from a whole concept of living.

So I'm stodgy now, she told herself, and glad of it, too.

An ordinary housewifely existence, nothing more spectacular than a few friends in for beer and talk, going to church now and then while Pete, the agnostic, slept late; vacation trips in New England or the Rocky Mountains; plans of having a kid soon — who wanted more? Her friends before had always been ready for a good laugh at the shibboleth-ridden boredom which was bourgeois existence: but when you got right down to it, they had only traded one routine and one set of catchwords for another, and seemed to have lost something of reality into the bargain.

Sheila shook her head, puzzled. It wasn't like her to go daydreaming this way. Her thoughts even sounded different, somehow.

She finished the housework and looked about her. Normally she relaxed for a while before lunch with one of the pocket mysteries which were her prime vice; afterwards there was some shopping to do, maybe a stroll in the park, maybe a visit to or from some woman friend, and then supper to fix and Pete to expect. But today —

She picked up the detective story she had planned to read. For a moment the bright cover rested between uncertain fingers, and she almost sat down with it. Then, shaking her head, she laid it back and went over to the crowded bookshelf, took out Pete's worn copy of Lord Jim, and returned to the armchair. Midafternoon came before she realized that she had forgotten all about lunch.

Corinth met Felix Mandelbaum in the elevator going down. They were that rare combination, neighbors in a New York apartment building who had become close friends. Sheila, with her small-town background, had insisted on getting to know everyone on their own floor at least, and Corinth had been glad of it in the case of the Mandelbaums. Sarah was a plump, quiet, retiring Hausfrau sort, pleasant but not colorful; her husband was a horse of quite another shade.

Felix Mandelbaum had been born fifty years ago in the noise and dirt and sweatshops of the lower East Side, and life had been kicking him around ever since; but he kicked back, with a huge enjoyment. He'd been everything from itinerant fruit picker to skilled machinist and O.S.S. operative overseas, during the war — where his talent for languages and people must have come in handy. His career as a labor organizer ran parallel, from the old Wobblies to the comparative respectability of his present job: officially executive secretary of a local union, actually a roving trouble shooter with considerable voice in national councils. Not that he had been a radical since his twenties; he said he'd seen radicalism from the inside, and that was enough for any sane man. Indeed, he claimed to be one of the last true conservatives — only, to conserve, you had to prune and graft and adjust. He was self-educated, but widely read, with more capacity for life than anyone else of Corinth's circle except possibly Nat Lewis. Fun to know.

"Hello," said the physicist. "You're late today."

"Not exactly." Mandelbaum's voice was a harsh New York tone, fast and clipped. He was a small, wiry, grey-haired man, with a gnarled beaky face and intense dark eyes. "I woke up with an idea. A reorganization plan. Amazing nobody's thought of it yet. It'd halve the paper work. So I've been outlining a chart."

Corinth shook his head dolefully. "By now, Felix, you should know that Americans are too fond of paper work to give up one sheet," he said.

"You haven't seen Europeans," grunted Mandelbaum.

"You know," said Corinth, "it's funny you should've had your idea just today. (Remind me to get the details from you later, it sounds interesting.) I woke up with the solution to a problem that's been bedeviling me for the past month."

"Hm?" Mandelbaum pounced on the fact, you could almost see him turning it over in his hands, sniffing it, and laying it aside. "Odd." It was a dismissal.

The elevator stopped and they parted company. Corinth took the subway as usual. He was currently between cars; in this town, it just didn't pay to own one. He noticed vaguely that the train was quieter than ordinarily. People were less hurried and unmannerly, they seemed thoughtful. He glanced at the newspapers, wondering with a gulp if it had started, but there was nothing really sensational — except maybe for that local bit about a dog, kept overnight in a basement, which had somehow opened the deep freeze, dragged out the meat to thaw, and been found happily gorged. Otherwise: fighting here and there throughout the world, a strike, a Communist demonstration in Rome, four killed in an auto crash — words, as if rotary presses squeezed the blood for everything that went through them.

Emerging in lower Manhattan, he walked three blocks to the Rossman Institute, limping a trifle. The same accident which had broken his nose years ago had injured his right knee and kept him out of military service; though being yanked directly from his youthful college graduation into the Manhattan Project might have had something to do with that.

He winced at the trailing memory. Hiroshima and Nagasaki still lay heavily on his conscience. He had quit immediately after the war, and it was not only to resume his studies or to escape the red tape and probing and petty intrigue of government research for the underpaid sanity of academic life; it had been a flight from guilt. So had his later activities, he supposed — the Atomic Scientists, the United World Federalists, the Progressive Party. When he thought how those had withered away or been betrayed, and recalled the brave clichés which had stood like a shield between him and the Soviet snarl — there for any to see who had eyes — he wondered how sane the professors were after all.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Brain Wave"
by .
Copyright © 1954 Trigonier Trust.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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