Upon turning the final page of this powerful novel, 21st century readers of "The Werewolf Principle" will likely set the book down slack-jawed with amazement at Simak's thoughtful, prescient exploration of genetic engineering, a scientific field of endeavour that, unheard of a scant 40 years ago, now reaches front page headlines on a regular basis.
Space travel as technology is now several hundred years old. But, currently debate is raging in the Senate over a proposal for a program of bio-engineering as a basis for the colonization of other solar systems. Is it better to force the planet to fit the man through terra-forming or to bio-engineer the man and mold his abilities to withstand hostile alien environments? There are those that feel the results of such a modification would somehow be less than human or may even be perceived as a monster.
But neither side to this debate is aware of Andrew Blake. Two hundred years earlier, this problem had already been faced and resolved at that time by producing a synthetic human - an android with the imprint of a fully human mind that would be capable of absorbing the form and mind of any alien culture it might encounter. The mission that carried Blake to the stars had been lost and the Space Administration reached the decision to formally bury any reference to the project as a regrettable failure! Luck and happenstance have now returned Blake to earth into the middle of the current debate and the world is shocked to learn of the flaw in their 200 year old experiment - the "data" from the absorption of an alien mind could not be erased. Blake is now an amalgam of three wildly different alien personalities able to interact and communicate with each other but within a single body.
Under the circumstances, Blake, of course, becomes the lightning rod "poster child" for BOTH sides of the debate. Even Blake himself is puzzled and questions both his humanity and his place on earth.
"The Werewolf Principle" is a trademark Simak blend of soft and hard sci-fi, crafted in his low-key softly stated pastoral Midwest style that cannot fail to amaze any thinking reader. The ending of the novel not only contains a blind-side twist worthy of the finest thriller but is also warmly romantic and intelligently optimistic without being trite or gushy. With standards like this to live up to, it is a miracle that contemporary writers of science fiction can actually make a living!
A prescient exploration of genetic engineering, a scientific field of endeavour that, unheard of a scant 40 years ago, now reaches front page headlines on a regular basis. It's mighty tough to beat Clifford D Simak's sci-fi for enduring quality.