Limit of Vision

Limit of Vision

Infobox Book |
name = Limit of Vision
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Linda Nagata
illustrator =
cover_artist = Stephen Youll
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction novel
publisher = Tor Books
release_date = 2001
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
pages = 352 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-765-34211-1
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Limit of Vision" is a 2001 science fiction book by author Linda Nagata. As is the case with many of her novels, there is a strong focus on nanotechnology and genetic engineering. Also typical of her works, government and corporate corruption plays a large role in the story, in this case as antagonistic suppressors of generally positive and liberating transhumanizing technology.

"Limit of Vision" tells the story of a rogue colony of artificial, independently viable neural cells called asterids (nicknamed LOVs, because their size is at the limit of human vision) which escapes from containment aboard a corporate research lab in low Earth orbit. Plummeting to Earth, the colony's habitat lands off the coast of Vietnam, to be picked up by Ela Suvanatat, a freelance journalist. Ela is helped by a group of young children living under the protection of a ROSA (ROving Silicon Agent, a nearly sentient computer program) named "Mother Tiger", who see an opportunity to advance their lots in life by cooperating with the LOVs in a form of symbiosis. Events quickly spiral out of control as the corporate lab, "Equasys", joins with the UN to eradicate the LOVs.

Plot summary

Virgil Copeland and Randall Panwar are forced to give a project review to the senior staff of "Equatorial Systems" alone when their fellow scientist Gabrielle Villanti fails to show up. Panwar stumbles through the presentation, showcasing their life work: asterids (artificial neurons) known as LOVs. Although LOVs showed promise in initial experiments, the enhanced intelligence of the test animals was offset by the uncontrolled growth of the LOVs, which eventually killed their hosts. LOVs were therefore made dependent on two amino acids: nopaline for metabolism and octopine for reproduction. In the second phase of the experiment, the LOVs were encased in silicate shells. These LOVs were able to safely interact with the test animals. Unfortunately, an unrelated incident at a rival biotechnology company prompted a government crackdown, and the LOVs were exported to the "Hammer", a space station in low Earth orbit.

Panwar's presentation is cut short when security interrupt with news of an incident at the lab. Gabrielle, Panwar, and Virgil had illegally implanted LOV clusters on their foreheads in order to communicate with the LOV colonies in their care, and Gabrielle had apparently entered a fugue state and died of exhaustion while in communion with their latest experimental subject. Their administrators learn of this shortly when they discover Virgil attempting to surreptitiously remove the LOVs from Gabrielle's corpse, and the two surviving scientists are put into quarantine. Unfortunately, the LOV colony is quite a bit more intelligent and resourceful than anyone had anticipated; it has overcome several obstacles and colonized key areas of the "Hammer". When it learns what has happened, it takes control of several drones and severs the lab module from the space station.

Ela Suvanatat is a freelance journalist doing a story on the plight of fishing villages in Vietnam when the "Equasys" lab module crashes offshore. Although it is quickly declared off limits by the government, Ela hires a boat and makes her way out to the crash site. She is barely able to scoop up a few stray LOVs which have survived reentry and get back to shore before the military arrives and cordons off the site.

Racing through the marsh ahead of military patrols, Ela comes into contact with the "Roi Nuoc", a group of children under the care of a nearly sentient computer program named "Mother Tiger". The "Roi Nuoc" take her to one of their benefactors, a businessman named Ky Xuan Nguyen. While cleaning up at his house, Ela discovers that the packet of LOVs has torn and most of her find is missing, but there are a few LOVs lodged in her forehead.

Meanwhile, Virgil and Panwar attempt escape from quarantine, but Panwar is gunned down and Virgil barely makes it to Panwar's one-man automated submarine. Virgil shortly receives from a message from Ela, who is worried that her LOVs seem to be dying. He tells her that crown galls on some plants might contain nopaline, and orders her a supply of both nopaline and octopine tablets from a chemical supply company.

Ela is forced to flee her safe house when the military begins a house-to-house search, but she stops along the way to gather crown galls and then asks one of the "Roi Nuoc" to lead her back to the pool in which she took shelter after swimming ashore. At the pool, Ela plunges half of her crown galls into the mud, hoping to save any LOVs which had made their way into the water.

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