I like my dystopias with more anger and bite. Harrison’s classic novel about overpopulation just hasn’t enough shock power to make me really feel the horror, it’s too subtle and subdued for its own good.
Though, part of my problem with the book is that overpopulations hasn’t been the problem people thought it would be, rather the other way round. That doesn’t mean a good developed scenario might not be interesting, but aside from the overpopulation problem the future of Harrison’s novel has been too conservatively developed, it’s just not very interesting, especially compared to the real 1999 (the year in the book). Reality is less mundane than fiction. No progress has taken place, which gives the book a very dated feeling.
The plot of the book follows two peoples lives, showing their futile attempts at living and surviving in such a world. The book has an atmosphere of slow and creeping decay, not just of the physical world, but of the hopes and dreams of everyone. Everything seems futile, none of the characters lives has any impact on the bigger situation, nothing they do matters. It’s a very different style compared to his more lighter tone in the Stainless Steel Rat books or even the Deathworld trilogy (the style at times makes it also a very dull book, you can only read so much about futility, until you feel futile about reading onward). I just wish he had used more skill on building his future and made the plot a bit more interesting.