"There's a caprice in our universe. [Heisenberg] taught us that. There's always something we can't interpret or understand... or measure." The principle of indeterminacy in the words of gene surgeon Potter, who appears in the first pages of the book.
The plot is set in a distant future, where natural selection has been overruled by the capacity of humans themselves to alter genes and to determine their offspring. The world is ruled by the Optimen, a caste of immortals who genetically determine the population of the world, splitting it in an artificially selected and bred caste of "breeders" and those who are sterile. Breeding is made possible only thanks to the gene surgeons, who adjust and define the genetic characteristics and the future of each embryo.
Frank Herbert describes a world where the use of technology has upset the biological stability of the reproductive system, where the birth of each individual - and the evolution of the species - is carefully scheduled following the logic of the Optimen.
But one day, that "something", an interference (which isn't defined by Herbert, but is called "the rhythm of life" or God, depending on the character), a reflection of Heisenberg's uncertainty, asserts itself and originates a new completely viable embryo, that could make the whole Optimen system crumble and would make the gene shaping process useless.
Herbert explores the perils of a world where reproduction is dominated by artificial selection and eugenetics, reprising many of the themes also present in his masterpiece Dune. The quite short and enjoyable novel concludes with a revolution of the social order (through natural child-bearing) which ends in a state of full indeterminacy: "Heisenberg would've liked this pattern. The movers themselves had been moved - and changed - by moving."...Continua