A mysterious representative has come to a small New England town to purchase a highly intelligent and promising 10-year-old boy named Barry Rudd from his parents and take him away for training and use in a special corporate defense project. (The "training" involves not only isolation and reeducation but major surgery.) The uproar has led to violence, battles on the school board, and an investigation by the state legislature. The story is told in the form of transcripts of the investigation, wherein various legislators -- from earnest and intelligent Senator Mansfield to blowsy conservative Senator Skypack and nearly somnolent Senator Voyolko question the principals. The tale is gripping, and surprisingly humorous within the larger, chilling context of the nature of education, child psychology, and economics. Hersey, primarily known as a journalist and "literary" novelist, made one of his occasional forays into science fiction with this 1961 bestseller.
This report prepared by David Loftus