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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Generosity: An Enhancement - Richard Powers The secret of happiness is to be born happy (i.e. right genes). With genetic engineering this can be made to order. This gives a new dimension to our God given right of the "pursuit of happiness." This novel is structured to examine this prospective future from multiple perspectives.

This novel explores what and how people would respond to a person who was genetically predisposed to having an off-the-charts level of extreme well-being. The book examines the pursuit of happiness using genetic engineering, mood enhancement drugs, psychology, religion, computer games, love and sex. Along the way the novel explores such heavy issues as freewill versus biological determinism, positive psychology and social cognition biases. The book takes on the air of a future-looking morality play with a hint of satire and occasional touch of subtile humor.

The book is creatively written, almost too creatively. The omniscient narrator occasionally switches to first person voice as if he's speaking of his writing experience while the reader is reading. No warning is given to the reader of these changes in voice, and it can be disorienting to the reader. Also, there are occasional skips from the current story to a time two years into the future. This time jump makes sense in the end, and it helps build anticipation. But the abruptness of these switches is a bit startling for the reader.

The end has a twist that makes reading all the way to the end worth the effort. I can't say more without being a spoiler. There is a lot of good discussion material here. The book would be a good selection for a book discussion group.