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I am trying to recollect the name of a English-language sci-fi novel dealing primarily with a dystopian future with

  • Explosive population growth
  • Widespread global pollution
  • one of the antagonists is a cult leader who preaches to people to voluntarily commit suicide to reduce burden on society
  • There is some backdrop story to this antagonist in which he is revealed to be a sadist torturing little animals
  • The protagonist races against time to find a solution for the pollution which is becoming lethal
  • he uses notes from his late son who was a researcher in the field to follow a trail. The research notes are in a data pad that self erases if certain questions, devised by his son, are not answered when reading it
  • the solution he finds at the end is a secret lab that has been growing super-intelligent next generation kids who have the potential to solve all the problems.

I remember reading it around 2002. Though I think it is a 1970-80s work.

Can you help me find the name of the novel?

  • 1
    @NiallC. updated my question with the details asked for. – AisA Dec 3 '12 at 1:47
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    @Flimzy English-language – AisA Dec 3 '12 at 22:12
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    Are you sure you're not conflating a couple of different books? Most notably Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room! (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Make_Room!_Make_Room!) which was made into the Soylent Green movie (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green) – user8416 Dec 4 '12 at 16:22
  • @ClaraOnager It definitely is not either. The only link between your suggestions and my unknown story is Population. I am sure in the story looking for there is no cannibalism. – AisA Dec 7 '12 at 20:52
  • A few points would also match some chapters of George R.R. Martins SciFi Novel Tuf Voyaging (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuf_Voyaging) – Thomas May 24 '16 at 12:57
11
+50

Sounds like "Nature's End" by Whitley Strieber & James Kunetka.

  • Explosive population growth

Ironically (as I type, the actual world population is quoted as 7.12 billion according to The US Census Bureau) this is set at 'over 7 billion' but the 'Depopulationist Manifesto' is quoted as saying:

The reason that life on earth is in danger of destruction is that there is an overpopulation of human beings.

  • Widespread global pollution

The first chapter has the son (Tom Sinclair) of the protagonist John Sinclair dying trying to save others "in the Denver pollution catastrophe of 2021".

  • One of the antagonists is a cult leader who preaches to people to voluntarily commit suicide to reduce burden on society

This character is Gupta Singh, the head of the Depopulationist Movement.

Every person who joins the Depopulation will gain much from his death and rise far in his next life.

  • There is some backdrop story to this antagonist in which he is revealed to be a sadist torturing little animals

Once I got a cat and tied it by its tail under the window, and cut a small slit in its belly. It screamed and squirmed about, and once in a while I would stick my fingers inside -

  • The protagonist races against time to find a solution for the pollution which is becoming lethal

This is the only thing that doesn't match. They are racing to complete a 'conviction' - a computer simulacrum of a personality which can be questioned and will always tell the truth about the person it is simulating.

  • He uses notes from his late son who was a researcher in the field to follow a trail. The research notes are in a data pad that self erases if certain questions, devised by his son, are not answered when reading it

This follows the description of Tom's datafiles exactly, although I can't find the quote.

  • The solution he finds at the end is a secret lab that has been growing super-intelligent next generation kids who have the potential to solve all the problems.

It's not a lab, but a secret community of hyper-intelligent children and uplifted apes called "Magic".

Incidentally, this is one of my favourite books! :)

2

Very vaguely like Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress.

There are a series of books in the series, strangely utopian turns dystopian model.

  • checked that one and the series, it is not the one. – AisA Dec 7 '12 at 20:55
-2

'Stand on Zanzibar', 'Shockwave Rider', or 'The Sheep Look Up' by John Brunner?

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    Can you explain why these match the question? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Nov 1 '13 at 20:37
  • I've read all three of these multiple times -- The Sheep Look Up is the closest (deals deeply with pollution and environmental disaster, and features the reluctant leader of a cult who is trying to save the world from humanity), but lacks any of the plot elements about suicide, sadism, or the self-erasing data pad. – Zeiss Ikon Aug 28 '17 at 17:46

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