In The Wellstone, a freestanding follow-up to his acclaimed novel The Collapsium, writer and real-life rocket scientist Wil McCarthy considers post-scarcity economies, leadership politics and immortality, all in an adventure novel that would have made Robert A. Heinlein proud.
Prince Bascal Edward de Towaji Lutui is the teenage heir to the Queendom of Sol, but, due to his parents' immortality, he will never inherit it. He is, of course, a polymath genius (his pre-teen poetry is scattered throughout the book), and he is deeply dissatisfied with his lot in life. Sent to summer camp, he foments revolution. The prince's two main collaborators are smart but impulsive Conrad Mursk and Xiomara (known as Xmary), a "fax" copy of a girl.
In this high-tech Queendom, a fax can reproduce not only material objects, but living creatures as well. Another important new invention is wellstone, a kind of programmable matter that can mimic almost any substance. The fax and wellstone technology is well thought out and described. Additionally, an appendix describes the "Fax Wars," in which McCarthy explores the (sometimes hilarious) ramifications of replicating devices being made widely available. Despite a wealth of competition from other characters, Conrad is the most interesting person here. Bascal's breakout forces Conrad to consider not just his actions, but also their possible consequences. Watching him come to life as an adult, realizing and working around his own faults not to mention the difficulties thrown in the revolutionaries' path is a treat worth the price of the book. Gavin J. Grant writes from Northampton, Massachusetts.