August Books 5) The World Inside

5) The World Inside, by Robert Silverberg

I first read this as a hormonal teenager and was deeply impressed by Silverberg’s portrayal of a future society where most of the world’s population lives in apartment blocks which are three kilometres high and, more importanlty, everyone is not just allowed but encouraged to have sex with everyone else, written up in erotic detail. Now, rereading it twenty years later, I realise that it is actually a dystopia; sexual freedom comes with a total ban on contraception, and instant capital punishment without trial for marital disagrements. It is a deeply repressive society whose rulers appear cynical. Naturally, the viewpoint characters all have serious doubts about fitting in; one ends up brainwashed into submission; another is executed, a third commits suicide. There is a society outside the tower blocks, cultivating the fields for the vast amount of food needed for a global population of 75 billion, but it is equally defective. As the title makes clear, this is not so much a novel about overpopulation or about sex as about personal frustration with society. Very interesting.

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