Science Fiction Though the Decades

Monday, March 26, 2012

1983: Midas World (Pohl, Frederik)

Consumption of abundance spawns misery (4/5)

Reviewing my library, I've become aware that while I dislike much of Pohl's work in novels, it's his work in the short story form which has won me over. The short story The Man Who Ate the World has been featured in over ten publications, but only now have I come around to (1) realizing what Pohl was grasping at and (2) actually liking it. Plushly surrounded with similar stories of the consumption of abundance, The Man Who Ate the World sits on a sturdier platform than the collection with the same title.

With the advent of fusion power, humanity puts all the power to work! Everything is put into mass production so that everyone has everything. Where the proletariats struggle to consume their consumption quota, the lumpenproletariats suffer much worse as they live in huge houses with everything imaginable and live their days endlessly consuming. The privileged live in blissfully sparse one-room studios and savor the sensations of hunger and penury. But when the weight of the world presses down on society's shoulders, revolution takes on a form which no one saw coming. Rendering themselves useless, humans take to orbit to escape the robots who produce for the sake of their own consumption. Pohl's universe of run-away consumerism spawned by plentiful energy only becomes sillier and sillier through the pages.

The Fire-Bringer (1983) - 4/5 - Amalfi Amadeus invents fusion power, the world rejoices, the materialism of the world's people blooms, and Amalfi doesn't get any of the glory. Even with statues and mentions in history textbooks, Amalfi wallows in his profitless fame. 4 pages

The Midas Plague (1954) - 5/5 - Morey Fry is a Class Three consumer with his wife Cherry. Their rate of consumption is lagging, as the National Rations Board has told them, and extra rations must be consumed during the next month. When Morey visits a shady bar after his blissful one day of work per week, he discovers fellow consumers who have a hatred for the robots who produce for the sole reason so that the humans can consume. After a drunken night out, Morey learns that he unintentionally solved his own problem of his consumption quota. 77 pages

The Servant of the People (1982) - 3/5 - Fiorello O'Hare is running for his 23rd term as Congressman. His competition this year is a vote-casting robot named Mayor Thom, who has suffrage thanks to O'Hare's legislature. But the shifty campaigning of Mayor Thom catches the eye of O'Hare's wife when visiting robots at a factory, where robots build robots. 26 pages

The Man Who Ate the World (1956) - 4/5 - The poorest of the poor, Anderson Trumie grows up in a world bombarded by perpetual mass consumption. For want of nothing but his sister's teddy bear, Anderson is punished by having yet another lavish birthday party. Twenty years later when humans don't need to mass consume, Anderson continues his habitual consumption as he commandeers an island, his own Robot Central, and a small chunk of the world's resources. It's up to psychist Roger Garrick and statistician Kathryn Pender to make Anderson realize this tyrannical wars are petty. 44 pages

The Farmer on the Dole (1982) - 5/5 - Zeb Josephson is a robotic soybean farmer. When the government allows the farm to go bust, Zeb is shipped to Des Plaines for reprogramming. Losing his farmer accent in favor of a properly punctual literature critic with an expansive vocabulary, Zeb is programmed to become a mugger in Chicago, under the tutelage of fellow robot Timothy. After being busted for robbing a human rather than another robot, Zeb meets robo-hooker Lori who introduces him to a group of wanna-be revolutionaries. 42 pages

The Lord of the Skies (1983) - 3/5 - Orbital resident Michael Pellica-Perkins spends his luxurious days casually browsing the alphabetical list of nearby females and delinquently hunting Von Neumann machines returning earthside with some intersolar ore. Michael's landlubber brother Rodney isn't as much as a voluptuary as Michael and disdains humanity's use of earth as one big power generator for the people in orbit. Michael soon learns that his 21st sequential wife is in on Rodney's plans for saving earth. 78 pages

The New Neighbors (1983) - 4/5 - Homiform Ralph and his organic dog Cissie are befriended by the only human tenants in their Chicago apartment block--Mr. and Mrs. Albright. His fellow homiform residents witness his rubbing shoulders with the humans and air their grievances about the couple's petty complaints. As an archaeologist/historian, Ralph finds inspiration for the solution in a secret notebook of Amaldi Amadeus. 36 pages

No comments:

Post a Comment