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Frek and the Elixir
Rudy Rucker
Tor, 476 pages

Frek and the Elixir
Rudy Rucker
Born in Louisville, KY, in 1946, Rudy Rucker studied at Swarthmore College and got his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Rutgers University. He initially worked as a mathematics professor, and is now a professor of computer science at San Jose State University. His main career is as an author; he has published 24 books. He is known for his Philip K. Dick-award-winning *Ware series (Soft*, Wet*, Free*, and Real*). Freeware is under option to Directed Evolution Neworks.

Rudy Rucker's Home Page
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Hacker And The Ants, Version 2.0
SF Site Review: Realware
SF Site Review: Seek!
SF Site Review: White Light and Master of Space & Time and The 57th Franz Kafka
SF Site Review: Freeware

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Here is a rather delightful new novel from Rudy Rucker. Frek and the Elixir is set more or less at the next millennium -- to be exact, in 3003. Hundreds of years before, NuBioCom destroyed the remaining natural species on Earth, and replaced them with a very few genetically engineered variants. They even destroyed the records of the genetic code of the natural species. Now, in 3003, Houses are grown from trees, the only pets are dogs, much of the food comes from anyfruit trees, and in many other ways it is clear that species diversity is rare. Frek Huggins is a 12-year-old boy living with his mother and his two sisters. He resents the fact that his father, Carb, left for the asteroids several years before. His life is nominally fairly pleasant but he doesn't quite fit in.

Then a flying saucer shows up, looking, it appears, for Frek. Frek is suddenly the object of the not-entirely-friendly attentions of the "counselors" of Gov, the worm-like alien that controls his city. He finds a saucer under his bed, and inside it is an alien cuttlefish, who assures him he will save the world and find the elixir that will restore the natural species to Earth. But Gov's representatives are not happy, and soon Frek is fleeing, at first into the dangerous Grulloo woods, home to many unusual kritters such as the Grulloo, intelligent people consisting of only a head, a tail, and two arms. Frek and a Grulloo make their way to Stun City to free the captured saucer and kill Gov -- but that doesn't work quite as expected. Soon they are off on a trip around the Galaxy, and indeed to different "branes". The situation is a lot more complicated than expected. Frek is to act as agent for a group of aliens who want to control the broadcasting of human experience to eager alien "viewers" -- but that broadcasting might also include mind control. And there are other aliens interested in controlling the same rights. Moreover, Frek meets his father, in the company of his new girlfriend and her daughter Renata. Naturally, sparks fly between Frek and Renata. So things continue, with visits to a number of alien milieus, some really fun and wacky SFnal ideas, and with Frek always keeping in mind not only the saving of the Earth's ecosystem, and the freeing of humans from potential mind control, but the restoring of his family.

I don't think I've really captured the fun of this novel very well. Rucker has long been known as an ideas man, and he doesn't disappoint here, with a couple of nicely portrayed alien species, some interesting mathematical and physical notions, and lots of clever biological ideas. The plot is not quite as successful, though it is fun to follow -- still, Frek's powers grow alarmingly as the novel continues, and the ultimate resolution, though emotionally satisfying, isn't fully convincing. The novel, with its 12-year-old protagonist, has a rather YA feel to it, though distinctly in the "YA to please adults" mode -- that is, I think it's a novel that will wow teen readers, but it's also quite fun for adults. I liked it, at any rate!

Copyright © 2004 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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