Twenty-one-year old Zhao Bowen wants nothing less than to crack the code for intelligence by studying the genomes of thousands of prodigies. He and his collaborators, a transnational group of intelligence researchers, fully expect they will succeed in identifying a genetic basis for IQ. They also expect that within a decade their research will be used to screen embryos during in vitro fertilization, boosting the IQ of unborn children by up to 20 points. In theory, that’s the difference between a kid who struggles through high school and one who sails into college.

Zhao Bowen is late for a Satanic heavy metal concert. After haggling the doorman down to half price, he pushes into a Beijing bar with a ceiling low enough to punch. He follows the shriek of guitars down a corridor and into a mosh pit lit by strobe lights.

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