Brain Plague

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What if alien microbes could give us whatever our brains imagined -- at a price?

Brain Plague is Joan Slonczewski's sixth novel, set in the same universe as A Door Into Ocean, Daughter of Elysium, and The Children Star. It was published by Tor in hardcover in 2000 and paperback in 2001. It was reprinted by PhoenixPick in trade paperback in 2010.

Here's what Joan Slonczewski has to say about her new novel:

Intelligent microbes are spreading through human brains.  The microbes promise to enhance human brainpower with their own, like microscopic parallel processors.  But they can also take over the brain for their own purpose, like smart cocaine.  Will they raise human creativity to unimagined heights -- or will they destroy humanity with their addictive power?  In the far-future city of Valedon, one ambitious artist, Chrysoberyl of Dolomoth, dares to find out.


"Brain Plague is one of the most interesting SF novels I have read in a long time. Scientifically provocative, full of fascinating situations, morally challenging -- this could very well be the future humanity one day faces. Not to be missed!"
--Nancy Kress

"Joan Slonczewski is one of a select few science fiction writers who deal with the biology of the far future in a believable and exciting way.... Brain Plague [refocuses] the attention in the genre, and best of all, not just in biological speculation. Along the way, Slonczewski favours us with lucid treatments of class structure, prejudice towards immigrants, sexuality, and the nature of humanity."
--James Schellenberg, on the Challenging Destiny web site (the entire review is here)

"Slonczewski explores the idea of microbial cohabitation rigorously, from its potential for addiction through the possibility of invasions of carriers by strains of brain plague.... Brain Plague is fully as charming as the microbes who inhabit it, with plenty of surprises and ample sources of reader delight."
--A. M. Dellamonica, on the Science Fiction Weekly web site

"The microbes as individuals, the vibrant prose, and the intensity of the internal dialogue, set Brain Plague apart from the rest of Slonczewski's work. Time will tell whether this is the best of her novels, but it is certainly the most compelling and engrossing read."
--Greg L. Johnson, on the SF Site web site (the entire review is here)

"Brain Plague gives new epic meaning to hearing voices inside your head. Tune in or youšll be sorry."
--Eva Wojcik-Obert, on the Fantastica Daily web site

"Slonczewski's fascinating, flawlessly developed, meticulously detailed scenario makes it easy to suspend disbelief."
--Kirkus Reviews

"While many SF novels find ways to bend the rules of physics, Brain Plague finds ways to bend the rules of the mind, and tinkers with our concept of individuality... the tale is well-told, drawing the reader in despite its complexity."
--John C. Snider, on the scifi dimensions web site

"Joan Slonczewski has established a reputation and a following as one of the most imaginative and rigorous of biological hard-SF writers."

Discussion Questions

Here's a list of discussion questions for Brain Plague from Lambda Sci-Fi.

Last modified: May 13, 2010

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