Sunday, September 11, 2005

Gen LaGreca: Noble Vision

Gen LaGreca's Noble Vision is a nominee for the Prometheus award. At this point, I think it has a decent chance of winning. It's a well-written, if mildly strident, medical thriller. The protagonist, David Lang is a neurosurgeon, who has developed a new technique for regrowing damaged nerve fibers, but he's up against the obstinate might of New York's new state-wide managed health care system. The conflict arises when Nicole Hudson, a dancer he admires, has an accident and will be permanently blind without his new treatment. The treatment doesn't have government approval, and there isn't time to apply for a waiver if Nicole's sight is to be saved. Additional conflicts between Lang and his wife, brother, and father (all doctors or medical administrators) are used to show how the government health care system co-opts and compromises the integrity of everyone it touches.

The book's Randian sense of life is evident early on as we see Nicole escaping from an uncaring child care system and emerging as a sensational ballerina on Broadway. She plays Pandora in ballet telling the story of Prometheus, titled "Triumph", but in this version "Prometheus and Pandora, armed with fire and hope, chase [humanity's] woes back into the box and save the human race". Lang is captivated by her performance, and sees the show again for an emotional boost whenever events in his life are getting out of control.

Lang is the classic Randian hero, refusing to bow to the state's demand for conformance with the system, and willingly courting ostracism in order to pursue his dream. There are only a few speaches on the unjustness of it all, and the reasons why socialized medicine inevitably leads to uncaring bureaucrats making trade-offs for its disempowered subjects are more often demonstrated than pontificated.

Several other subplots are woven skillfully through the story. Each adds to the drama, tension, or romantic vision. LaGreca shows that the boundaries between really venal but well-meaning politicians and well-meaning politicians who have compromised on some of their values in order to achieve others is really gray. In her world, none of these compromises achieves the higher goals. Compromises always accept a loss to one value without any longer term benefit.

I prefer classic escapist science fiction in exotic settings, but if there aren't any well-written and clearly libertarian entries this year, Noble Vision is likely to get my vote.

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