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Welcome, Chaos
By Kate Wilhelm

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Welcome Chaos
By Kate Wilhelm
John Curley & Associates, Inc., (1983)
ISBN: 0-89340-778-X (Large Print)
Genre: Science Fiction, Psychological Drama

Other Editions: Standard Print - Hardcover | Standard Print - Paperback

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - December 30, 2001

Lyle Taney's son died of a drug overdose at the age of twelve-years-old. After her son died, her marriage broke up and she retreated into her work as a professor of Ancient History. Her life takes an astounding turn when she writes a book about hawks that becomes, unexpectedly, hugely popular. Her life is further disrupted when she is approached by Hugh Lasater, a gentleman of dubious legitimacy, who claims to be working for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Having researched her life in detail, he knows exactly what buttons to push to get her to do his bidding.

Lasater knows that Taney is on her way to Oregon to begin work on a new book, this one on eagles. Using his guises as a drug enforcement agent, he tells her that he wants her to spy on a group of drug smugglers for them, and to obtain a set of fingerprints from one of the suspects. Unwillingly, she agrees, simply for the satisfaction that it would bring to her to destroy one of the faceless men who killed her son. However once she puts a face on her target, Saul Werther, she quickly realizes that Lasater is using her, and whatever Werther is involved in, it is not the smuggling of illegal drugs.

What Werther is involved with, and what everyone wants to get his hands on, is a serum that gives its recipients near immortality. It does, however, have to disastrous side effects. Namely, it kills half the people who take it, and those that survive are rendered sterile. This poses a horrendous question to those who possess the serum. What should they do with it? This is the crux of this thought provoking novel. Here you have a drug that can make a person nearly indestructible - but they can never reproduce. If you gave the drug to everyone, half the people would die, while the other half would be faced with the certain knowledge that there would never be another child born. What would happen to civilization? Would it stagnate or would it blossom? What if a government got a hold of it and inoculated all its soldiers? What would one country do if they learned that their enemy possessed the serum, but they did not? In a world in which many countries have the fire power, both conventional and nuclear, to annihilate the entire world - numerous times over, these questions take on a chilling reality.

Kate Wilhelm has an analytical mind, and in Welcome, Chaos she has created a compelling psychological drama that will make you reflect on how you would react in the various situations in which she places her characters. She deftly follows Taney as she comes to term with her own past, and a future in which she holds many of the keys to the continuation, or destruction, of the human species. This is not a fast paced melodrama. Rather, it is a cerebral excursion into the world of 'what ifs'. Although a work of science fiction, Wilhelm poses questions that have a clear relevance to today's world. This is not my favorite Wilhelm book, but it the one that I will remember the most...

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