Friday, June 25, 2010

One of Those Books

So the other book, the one that made the last week an unpleasant slog, was The World Inside, by Robert Silverberg.  I read a blurb about it at Unshelved, and it sounded good--future dystopia fiction, etc. etc.  Then I found my library's copy and realized it was originally published in 1971.  This made me a little cautious, but far be it from me to practice literary ageism.

But then I started it, and oh, it's one of those books.  One of those 1970s sci fi books in which a) everybody's having all the sex with everybody else because in the future we will no longer have any kind of sexual boundaries, leading to b) a science fiction writer writes a lot of sex scenes, which is almost incidental to the real problem, because c) the whole book is an excuse for him to write about his philosophical observations on human nature.

The blurb on the back cover, for crying out loud, was an excerpt of a conversation between an urban administrator and an imaginary critic of the society he lives in, in which he defends their way of life.  I really can't believe I opened it after realizing that.

In the future, mankind has made a religion out of fertility; it is one's duty to bring as much life to the world.  The Earth's population is 75 billion (which they write 75,000,000,000 throughout the book, just to impress you with zeros, I suppose), but that's okay, because everyone lives in high rises called "urbmons."  Three kilometers high, each one houses almost a million people.  They have small enough footprints that most of the world is farmland; a very few people live on the agricultural communes and trade food for manufactured goods of the urbmon.

The entire book was an ironic defense of the urbmon way of life.  Each chapter is told by a different character, all relatively interconnected--they all know each other peripherally--and follows their life in the urbmon.  They wander around and have sex with each other and do their little jobs and think about how awesome the urbmon life is, or maybe it's not, but no, sure it is, after all there's all this sex!  Seven kids, 400 square meters of space, this is the life. 

It took me a long time to read, and it definitely made its point and built its world thoroughly.  But it never went outside the box (no pun intended--wow, I made a pun about this book).  This is a book about the dangers of overcrowding on the psychology of the individual, and you are not allowed to forget it.

So I'm afraid I can't recommend it to you.  I can, however, tell you that the books I'm reading now range from enjoyable (99 Coffins, by David Welllington) to really good (The Sharing Knife: Beguilement, by Lois McMaster Bujold) to fabulous (Lamb, by Christopher Moore).  Read some!

1 comment:

Brenda Pike said...

Tuf Voyaging by George R. R. Martin has a fertility religion vs. overpopulation theme, too (at least partially). I don't know that I'd say the book was good, but it was interesting enough to check out. cats!