Published in 1967 and set in the 23rd century, who'd have thunk that William F. Nolan's dystopian novel would be so relevant to Egypt today? Bookworm Anam Sufi explains...
To avoid harsh condemnation, I try to steer clear from providing any sort of opinion on political instances on public forums. However, I can’t help but cross hatch this week’s book review with a bit of moral reasoning. I know I’m not alone in having my Facebook Newsfeed bombarded with polemic ramblings on the shifting temperatures of what was previously a cold war between (to quote the media) the “liberals” and the “Islamists”. As such, it was to no surprise that I found myself inexorably reading the first book of William F. Nolan’s science fiction trilogy, Logan’s Run, in light of Egypt’s crumbling social and political milieu.
The novel is set in a dystopian society that exists far in the future. To maintain equilibrium in terms of both population and consumption, the legislative and socially accepted law determines that every citizen must willingly kill themselves at the age of 21. The runners who try to escape their predetermined fate are hunted down by skillfully trained Sandmen. The protagonist of the story, Logan, is a sandman who is evidently perturbed by the harrowing experiences of murder that he has had to commit within his line of work. Having said this, he still believes that he is acting according to what is “right”. It is only when Logan finds himself running as well, that he discovers the warped and dehumanising nature of the world that surrounds him.
Some of you might be wondering what on Earth this has to do with the politics of the day, but it has a very important message imbued within it. Logan’s Run draws attention to the value of human life, particularly focusing on the individuality that identifies and separates one life from another. I won’t linger too long on what can only be called “my two cents”, but I will say that despite stance, status, or side, Egyptians in general should take a moment to reflect on the widening fissures that are plaguing society at large. It seems that people are increasingly arming themselves with political and statistical jargon, one of the causes of which appears to be a weak attempt to dehumanise the victims of hostilities that are fuelled by polarised political viewpoints.
Returning to the book in question, Logan’s Run made for a wonderful reminder of the intricate complexities that stratify our dynamic species. More importantly, it spotlights the significance of empathy. And in this way, it makes for a highly appropriate read at present.
Much like Orwell’s 1984, or Huxley’s Brave New World, Logan’s Run makes use of science to display the alarming actuality of some of the changes to society that are in motion today. Elements of such science fiction within the book include a light that is planted on every citizen’s hand at birth. The colour of the light on this button changes every seven years, until it switches off when an individual turns 21. At this time, all citizens are required to point out anyone whose light has gone out.
One of my favourite satires within this book is the presence of a high-tech brothel that is situated in a glass house. No sexual transaction is completed in privacy as every room is sporadically doused in a gold light that allows for everyone in the building as well as the street to look into it. Talk about the censure of privacy in decline!
The pace of the book is something that is wholly reflected in its title. Without making it sound too dry, the whole book is quite literally an account of Logan running from the system. As such, I finished this book in one sitting. You almost don’t have the time to breathe while reading it because so much is happening… All the time.
Oddly enough, if I had to point out one criticism it would be that Nolan could have traded in some of the fast paced action for more descriptive passages. The content is very rich with satire and metaphor, but there are instances where the plot is moving so quickly, that in order to fully appreciate the significance of certain aspects of the fictional society, the reader has to actively stop and reflect on it.
Of course, I would implore you to not be fazed by this, as all in all it’s what a cooler Oprah Winfrey would call an “edge-of-your-seat-page-turner.”