In a digital laboratory on the shores of Puget Sound, virtual reality researchers race to complete the Cavern, a bland white room that can become a jungle, a painting, or a vast Byzantine cathedral. In a war-torn city on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, an American is held hostage, chained to a radiator in an empty white room...
Adie Klarpol, a disillusioned artist, is invigorated by the thrill of working with the Cavern's cutting-edge technology. As Cold War empires collapse and the Berlin Wall falls, she retreats into the cyber-realities she has been hired to create. In Beirut, English teacher Taimur Martin is held in solitary confinement by Islamic fundamentalists, where he must keep his mind whole by the force of his memory alone. What can possibly join two such remote places? Only the shared imagination, a room that these two people unwittingly build in common, where the strands of this wildly inventive novel coalesce into one.
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In Plowing the Dark, Richard Powers returns to the richly promising realm of cyber-invention, one of our age's few remaining frontiers and a siren call to restless intellects. No one who enjoyed his remarkable breakthrough novel, Galatea 2.2, will be surprised by this. Here, an old friend recruits a disillusioned New York artist named Adie Klarpol to work on "the Cavern". TeraSys, a Seattle-based company, is building this virtual environment at great expense in the hope that it will lower its enormous tax liability as well as, in the long run, provide the template for all such virtual playrooms. "Millions of dollars of funding," Adie's friend Steve tells her when she arrives on the job, "and nobody around this dump can draw worth squat." Suitably impressed by the Cavern's programming, and slowly absorbing its dazzling capacity to project vivid and convincing illusions, she sets herself the task of creating a faithful 3-D version of Rousseau's Dream. Her painstaking efforts in the Realization Lab are aided by a host of supporting characters, one of whom, Spider Lim, proves so sensitive that he gets a bruise from bumping into one of Adie's virtual tree branches. And when the central female figure appears among the foliage, Lim is irresistibly drawn in, marvelling that
their first successful leaf, twirling in the Cavern darkness, had led to this--this pale, lentil body turning in his mind's dark. This scapular profile, these tow-line braids. Her hips fell somewhere on the Limaçon of Pascal. The squares of her breasts' abscissas and ordinates summed to an integer. This was the math of women, a field he'd given up studying, female equations whose complexities had long ago surpassed his ability to differentiate.
Powers' lush language corresponds to Adie's vision of Rousseau's jungle, and in turn to Rousseau's own ecstatic vision. Yet there is also something elegiac in the author's lavish descriptions of the Cavern's miracles, as if he were offering a late, last flowering of words before the cultural ascendancy of the image. Great, quotable chunks weight every page. Even readers fond of extravagant prose may find Powers's verbal persistence wearying, though it suggests that there are still contradictions and subtleties of mind that no image can track. --Regina Marler, Amazon.comReview:
"Spectacular... Powers loves placing brilliant characters inside a fluorescent incubator, then watching ideas hatch on the page... Riveting" ( New York Times Book Review)
"Richard Powers is one of the few writers who has taken on the challenge of Thomas Pynchon, creating a complex, unsentimental and simultaneously deeply moving world" ( Red)
"There's no other way to say it: Richard Powers is a genius" ( Time Out)
"One of the finest efforts from the massively gifted Powers, who again probes the fluid buffer between science and the imagination" ( Kirkus Reviews)
"Superb...powers' seventh and perhaps greatest novel...one of the most astonishing feats I've ever seen in literature." ( Washington Post)
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Book Description Vintage, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. 432 pages. 7.80x5.08x0.98 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # zk0099286726