Based on the short story “Do I Sleep Or Wake” from Galaxy in 1965.
Thousands of years in the future humanity is controlled by Optimen. Three of them, Nourse, Schruille and the female Calapine are all sterile and at least forty thousand years old. They’re the tribunal that control everything. They keep a large portion of the population sterile.
Harvey and Lizabeth Durant are allowed to watch the genetic manipulation of their embryo. Their son’s genetic structure did not contain the genes necessary for immortality and was supposed to be destroyed. It does contain complete fertility and that makes it out of the control of the contraceptive gas the Optimen use for control. Dr.Potter was supposed to destroy it. He didn’t do it. Instead he destroyed the taped record of the operation.
The bulk of the population isn’t immortal and some choose to become Cyborgs. Eventually The Durants’, their doctor who assisted Potter and some Cyborgs are on the run. Harvey and Lizabeth are able to communicate silently by a hand language when they press each others flesh. The embryo is hidden the old fashioned way, inside Lizabeth.
The Cyborgs want to keep the embryo alive and that puts them in conflict with the Optimen. The Durants’ and their companions can run but they can’t hide and end up in a confrontation with the tribunal.
The short book is okay as a quick read. It starts off muddled but eventually picks up and moves towards a slam bang ending that changes everything.
I enjoyed this Herbert — one of his better non-Dune novels. I enjoy hoe he layers narratives, the characters communicating via touch, the rumination on a people without a past…
I’ve read a number of his non Dune novels and this is one of the better ones.