This novel, destined to be a libertarian classic on the level of Atlas Shrugged, challenges you to reconsider what you´ve always known.
Evolution is an unchallengeable scientific fact, isn´t it? Not in this novel—and not in this world, either. If evolution is a scientific fact, wouldn´t we have lots of fossils of intermediate life forms by now? Take the classic idiocy we were all taught, that dolphins and whales are "mammals that returned to the sea." Really?
If mammals "returned to the sea," wouldn´t you expect to find at least one fossil of a creature half way between a whale and a land mammal? But try to picture what such a poor creature would look like, and you realize such a thing couldn´t be viable. A horse with fins? A dolphin with legs? Who´s kidding whom?
Species don´t change form gradually over time, as we were all taught, but suddenly—dramatically. This might happen some day, even to our own species. What if women the world over started having babies who were different in appearance, in abilities—and in the way they think? Would such a new species be mankind´s salvation—or mankind´s destroyer? This is the world of the near future, a world in which a great Transfiguration—a complete change in life forms—has occurred.
But before I tell you any more about the setting of the novel, consider where you learned about how the world works: the public schools. Did it ever strike you that, when children loathe school, when a five year old cries and screams at the prospect of leaving home and has to be literally dragged off to school like a lamb to the slaughter—that he may be trying to tell you something?
It may be that children understand the true nature of school much more profoundly than adults. For public schools, you see, are not so much centers of learning as centers of indoctrination. The lessons learned in public schools are obedience to authority and subservience to the group. Children, when they are young, resist this with all the rebellion they can muster. We, as adults, accept it.
But suppose our new humanoid species—called the Keth—don´t think the way most of us do? Suppose they resisted all the attempts to indoctrinate them? Oh, they pretend to go along with submission to authority, but at heart, they´re rebels. They develop their abilities, they broaden their minds, and they wait.
Like the Keth, the Founding Fathers were rebels at heart. Unfortunately, their ingenious system for restraining tyrants—constitutional law—has been eroded over time. Today, we´re only a crisis away from having full tyranny restored. Great thinkers like the founding fathers are rebels in the deepest sense. They are the state´s worst nightmare.
That nightmare is one in which people understand things as they are, stand up, and say no. The usual reaction to free people saying no is total subjugation, as when the South tried to go its own way. But usually, the state tries to prevent such actions by using a thousand ingenious mind tricks. Like Patriotism: the unquestioning support for your ruler´s wishes. Or Service to Country: the willingness to march off to far corners of the globe to be blown to bits in service to democracy.
The Keth, being gifted in understanding, don´t fall for such games. Not even the most common trick: believing you can be better off by accepting stolen loot from the government, like a dog panting for a few more scraps from his master. The Keth pretend to go along, waiting for their chance. Most people, of course, fall for these old games, but if you´ve read this far, you´re probably one of the rare ones who don´t.
The story of Transfiguration is the story of breaking free. You will read how the Keth are rounded up and sent to specialized schools to make them more pliable and socialized. You will read how they struggle to improve their minds, despite the efforts of their teachers to hold them back.
And finally, you will read about a group of scientists who dare to challenge the state. To their leaders, they are traitors for trying to free the Keth. But a traitor from one point of view is a freedom-fighter from another.
But the Keth believe in offering value for value. Perhaps, in trying to free the Keth, human beings will learn the value of freedom. In the world of Transfiguration, where everything is changed, the old rules may no longer apply.
For in the near future, a new type of man has emerged. Perhaps, freedom will have a chance.