maandag 30 augustus 2010
I read a really nice book, it's called 'This Perfect Day' by Ira Levin. It is really bizarre to read and to see a fake world, in which everyone is supposed to be happy, but has no control over his own life...
The story is set in a seemingly perfect global society whose genesis remains vague. "Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei led us to this perfect day" is what school children learn to chant.
Uniformity is the defining feature; there is only one language and all ethnic groups have been eugenically merged into one race called "The Family". There are only four personal names for men, and four corresponding names for women. Instead of surnames, individuals are distinguished by a nine-character alphanumeric code, their nameber. Everyone eats "totalcakes", drinks "cokes", wears exactly the same thing and is satisfied - every day.
The world is managed by a central computer called UniComp which has been programmed to keep every single human on the surface of the earth in check. People are continually drugged by means of weekly injections so that they will remain satisfied and cooperative "Family members". They are told where to live, when to eat, whom to marry, when to reproduce, and for which job they will be trained. Everyone is assigned a counselor who acts somewhat like a mentor, confessor, and parole agent; violations against 'brothers' and 'sisters' by themselves and others are expected to be reported at a weekly confession.
Everyone wears a permanent identifying bracelet which interfaces with access points that act as scanners which tell the "Family members" where they are allowed to go and what they are allowed to do. Around the age of 62, every person dies, presumably from an overdose of the treatment liquids; almost anything in them is poisonous if an excess dose is given. Now and then, someone dies at 61 or 63, so no one is too suspicious of the regularity. Even opposition against such a life by those few who happen to be resistant to the drugs, or those who purposely change their behavior to avoid strong doses of some of the drugs in the monthly treatment, and who consequently wake up to a day which for them turns out to be anything but perfect, is dealt with by the programmers of UniComp. These long-lived men and women, in their underground hideaway, constitute the real, albeit invisible, world government. They live in absolute luxury and choose their own members through a form of meritocracy. In part, people who choose, through evasion and modifying their own behavior, to leave the main Family are subtly re-directed to "nature preserves" of imperfect life on islands. These, however, have been put in place by the programmers as a place to isolate trouble-making Family members. The top minds among the outcasts are further manipulated into joining the programmers to help them maintain the equilibrium in the "perfect" world of UniComp and The Family.
Even the basic facts of nature are subject to the programmers' will - men do not grow facial hair, women do not develop breasts, and it only rains at night. Dampers even control the movement of tectonic plates. Reference is made in the story to permanent settlements on Mars and even to interstellar space exploration; these outposts have their own equivalents of UniComp.
I recommend it, you must read it too!