Science Fiction novel by Orson Scott Card. One of Card's better works, this synopsis contains minor spoilers if you are planning to read the book, but nothing past the first 50 pages or so, I think. In the far future, a powerful and decadent galactic empire is dependent on a life-extending drug known as Somec. Somec, however, doesn't extend the length of time you live, exactly. While you are under the drug, you don't age. The elite of the society, therefore, sleep away the ages, waking only a few days per year for the most priveleged. The poorer get progressively less and less somec, while the very poor get none at all. Jason Worthing is born into this society with a death sentence already in his genes. He was born a swipe, a telepath who can read the minds of others. Formerly swipes were the elite of society, starship captains who read the minds of their opponents to defeat them. The swipes, however, attempted to seize power in an orgy of violence that ended with entire planets decimated, and therefore are now outlawed. Jason is discovered, and in his escape encounters the man in charge of the empire, Abner Doon. He confides to Jason his vision for the future of the empire: to see it lying in smoking ruin! He maintains that Somec has destroyed all the qualities that were best in the human race, and that a fresh start is needed. And he thinks Jason is just the man to help him.

One of the best books I have ever encountered, epic, sensitive, passionate and thought provoking.

The plot revolves around the premise that joy and pleasure cannot be fully appreciated without experiencing and understanding of their opposite - Pain. Without the negetive things in life, our appreciation of what is good and pure has nothing to measure against and as such becomes nondescript and ordinary.
The book is filled with different characters, across multiple timelines, but the main theme is prevelent in each of the tales. This ties all of the characters together in their joint understanding of what it is to suffer, and through that suffering to fully appreciate the lives that they live.

A great book about humanity.

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