In his sixth novel, Powers's antagonists are a 42-year-old real estate broker and a corporation. Divorcee Laura Bodey lives with her 17-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son in Lacewood, Illinois. The story of her relations with her kids, her work, her ex, a married boyfriend, and contraction of ovarian cancer is told in tandem with the history of Clare Soap and Chemical, whose roots go back to Boston in 1830 and progress through wars, labor struggles, e... Galatea 2.2
In this, Powers' fifth novel, he pushes the envelope of self-conscious storytelling. The narrator/protagonist has his name, goes where he has been (Champaign-Urbana, Holland), and relates the circumstances of the writing and some of the critics' comments on what are clearly his first four books. Perhaps the romantic entanglements are all but autobiographical too. The fictional part involves a project to create artificial intelligence -- a computer known ... Operation Wandering Soul
Powers's fourth novel centers on the activities in the pediatrics ward of a Los Angeles hospital. The protagonist physician tries to help the various children with rare and often fatal diseases to cope. References to the Children's Crusade and other historical events that crushed children and their wishes and futures are woven into the story; at the climax, the kids on the ward stage a production of the Pied Piper. This is perhaps Powers's darkest, most ... Orfeo
Bored with music, composer Peter Els experiments with translating DNA into music, a move that makes him a terrorist in the eyes of the government. Composer Peter Els has spent his life in search of music that is transformative and unique. Once he retires from teaching, he almost randomly decides to draw on his college experiences as a scientist and try and craft bacteria that could be used as part of a new composition. He's convinced that he can use his ...
Plowing the Dark
At the turn of the 1990s, a team of young hotshots and middle-aged artists and teachers work for an R&D spinoff of a Microsoft-like corporation in the Seattle area. Their project involves computer-generated virtual realities. At roughly the same time, a 33-year-old American teaching English in Beirut is taken hostage by Arab terrorists and remains in their grip for more than 2 years. Their stories cross in the end, in a somewhat mystical way. In this, hi... Prisoner's Dilemma
Although it starts out seeming to present the portrait of a family, and the relations between siblings, Powers's second book is also out for bigger game: the nature and hidden traps of history. Teacher Eddie Hobson seems to have gone a little off his nut as well as developed a mysterious sickness; most puzzling to his wife and four kids, he labors ceaselessly on a secret project called Hobbstown, which he claims will save him, the world, and everything i... The Echo Maker
Mark Schluter has been in a serious car accident. Soon after his sister Karin arrives at the hospital, Mark slips into a coma. Karin finds a mysterious note at Mark's bedside. When Mark regains consciousness, he believes Karin is not his sister, but an imposter. The diagnosis is Capgras syndrome. Karin writes to well-known neurologist Dr. Gerald Weber, who arrives in Nebraska to discuss Mark's case. Mark begs Weber to find his "real" sister. He has no re... The Gold Bug Variations
This is NOT summer beach reading. Powers writes rich, powerful, intellectual novels and this is his masterpiece (so far). Two couples -- a pair of scientists working on the secrets of DNA in 1957 Champaign-Urbana (the woman is already married to someone else), and a reference librarian and computer programmer/art history dropout in New York circa 1982-86 -- fall in love and provide the human quartet that matches the four base constituents of DNA. Bach's ... Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance
Powers published this stunning debut novel at the age of 28. An actual photo taken by August Sander, the Austrian photographer of the common man, of three farmers walking down a road in western Europe in August 1914 serves as the centerpiece for a meditation on history (especially the Great War) and its undercurrents, mass production (Henry Ford is a character in the story), photography, solitude and loss. A young computer designer in 1980s Boston tries ...