|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Publisher||Penguin Books (USA)|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3619.A36 I35 2003|
Idlewild is a science fiction novel by Nick Sagan, published in 2003. It is the first of a trilogy, with sequels Edenborn and Everfree. The story is split between two settings: the middle of the 21st century (told through interludes and distinguished from the main story by italics) and a generation later. It is a picture of the last ten people on earth, a near-complete pantheon of gods and goddesses.
The story told in the interludes is set in the middle of the 21st century. Here, a retrovirus called Black Ep has rendered all of humanity infertile, and causes people to die. It went undetected by hiding in the human genome itself. Humanity, realizing that the end of the world is imminent, promptly unites in a show of universal brotherhood, but they are too late. However, in the lab of a major German-American genetic research facility, a group of scientists (referred to throughout the interludes as The Southern Gentleman, Blue, and Halfway Jim) are working on a project which may save humanity. The project involves raising ten genetically altered children in immersive virtual reality (IVR), since nobody would be left to raise them. To test the efficiency of the software, Halfway Jim uses his masterpiece work, a program designed to be as close to a real child as possible, to run through the virtual lives the children will lead. Out of sentimentality, Jim's dying act is to integrate this program, which he names Malachi, into the virtual reality environment.
A young man wakes up with no memory of who he is, where he is, or anything about his life and is initially unable to move.
After a short period of time, he regains motion, but no memories. Over the next few pages, he is faced with flashing lights, disembodied voices, a cathedral, teddy bears nailed to wooden posts, graveyards, the realization that he is both alone and that his world is impossibly small, and terrifying creatures known as Nightgaunts, before meeting with Jasmine, a 'human' who identifies him as Halloween.
As the book progresses, Halloween realizes where he is. He's in a virtual reality school that his parents have sent him to. Upon completion of the school, each student will receive both a scholarship to go through college and a position in a prestigious medical company called Gedaechtnis Corporation (in German, Gedächtnis means memory, or ability to recall). The ten students are Mercutio (Adam), Pandora (Naomi), Simone, Isaac, Lazarus, Vashti, Tyler, Champagne (Charlotte), Fantasia (Gina), and Halloween (Gabriel) himself. Fan, Merc, Hal, and Ty are considered the "clods" while Simone, Isaac, Laz, Vashti, Cham, and Pan are the "pets". Where pets study and follow all of the rules, clods do the opposite. The digital teacher of the school is named Maestro, but the clods call him Mae$tro (pronounced 'Maeshtro') and do not respect or care for him. Each student is given a digital world that they may edit to their liking; this is where they 'live' while in IVR and where Halloween first finds himself at the beginning of the book. They are also assigned a "Nanny," a digital being that can help a student with anything they need help with. For example, when Halloween realizes that Jasmine is not real, he asks Nanny to bring her back to life (she died in a fight against Fantasia), and Nanny does so. Because of Halloween's suspicions that he may have killed Lazarus, he does not confide in anyone for a long period of time.
Mercutio asks Halloween if he'd like some food, and they decide to dine at the Taj Mahal. Mercutio begins to order a steak, but halfway through his order, the entire world freezes up. Merc has triggered a jammer so that he and Hal can escape IVR, and they both wake up in their beds in the school. They decided to visit their favorite diner, Twain's, and enjoy a nice meal before Merc decides to head back to IVR. Halloween, however, chooses to call his parents and report that he is dropping out. After a tough time with both his parents and Ellison, the school's headmaster (and the man Maestro was modeled after), Halloween is sent back to IVR.
Halloween "graduates" all of the remaining students, waking them up from IVR. They decide to fulfill Gedaechtnis' plans for them to rebuild the world, but Halloween rejects the plan. The book ends with Halloween standing in the woods of Michigan, angry at the world for robbing him of his illusions, the girl he loved and his two best friends.
- ISBN 0-399-15097-8: U.S. Hardback (Putnam Publishing Group)
- ISBN 0-451-21206-1: U.S. Paperback (New American Library)
- ISBN 0-593-05190-4: UK Hardback (Bantam Press)
- ISBN 0-553-81597-0: UK Paperback (Bantam Press)
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