In a New York City groaning under the burden of 35 million inhabitants, detective Andy Rusch is engaged in a desperate and lonely hunt for a killer everyone has forgotten. For even in a world such as this, a policeman can find himself utterly alone....
Acclaimed on its original publication in 1966, Make Room! Make Room! was adapted into the 1973 movie Soylent Green, starring Charlton Heston along with Edward G. Robinson in his last role.
©1966 Harry Harrison; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
An excellent dystopian view of the future, "Make Room! Make Room!" shows a world that is depressingly believable...vastly overcrowded cities, failing infrastructure and the struggle to secure the basic necessities (especially water) dominate every-day life. The book is very prescient; it reflects current concerns over environmental destruction and exhaustion of natural resources, which seemed remote and hypothetical when the book was published in 1966 (only 4 years after "Silent Spring" started the environmental movement).
The novel is written as a police procedural set in the New York City of 1999. Making the protagonist a detective was effective as it allowed the reader to see many aspects of the "Make Room!" world in a natural manner. However, between the setting and the realities of police work, the book is very bleak.
The movie "Soylent Green" was loosely based on "Make Room! Make Room!" Very loosely. More accurately, the movie setting was taken from the book and some of the plot elements, but the story, the themes and the conclusion are very different. For example, there is no "soylent green" in the book at all. If you've seen the movie, you haven't read the book, or vice versa.
Those who want to study such things might want to compare "Make Room! Make Room!" to the more antiseptic future envisioned in "Brave New World" (which was written about 35 years earlier).
Summerer's narration is quite good. He really pulls the listener into the story, and his reading is well paced and the characters are voiced distinctly without much apparent strain on Summerer's part, or the listener's (it helps that there aren't really all that many characters).
In conclusion, an interesting, if depressing, listen.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
I always seem to expect more from these classics than I get from them. This one is okay... kinda... it is very dry and we don't actually care that the whole world is starving to death (well, all of NYC is anyway)... the characters are all a bit of a jerk and the female character trades on her sex to get by. Oh, sure, this is par for the course for the genre and the era, but I always prefer when authors put some work into character development and have women be something other than independently mobile sex toys, or, perhaps, slothy neglectful mothers.
I guess Harrison's underlying premise is that overpopulation would starve out humanity (because "someone"/"the MAN" bans birth control) and, while that might have been an issue in the 60s, nowadays it is more likely that we will starve out humanity by virtue of genetic modifications, disease and toxic water contamination... End result = the same, but the process of getting there is mildly different (only mildly though because it is still "someone"/"the MAN" who puts their profits from fracking and oil pipelines ahead of clean water, for example).
Anyway, I am glad I read it and can accept that it is a product of its era, driven by the concerns of that era. I won't be looking for more books by Harrison though. The narration is fine. There is no swearing, sex or graphic violence.
My taste differs from kid books to gory horror books.
New York City is expected to hit 19 million this year, but according to HH when he wrote this book in 1966, NYC was going to hit 35 million by 1999. England was suppose to be one huge city. Resources were almost completely exhausted. In NYC water, food, housing and most everything is rationed. People live in huge ships anchored in the harbor, they also live in cars that have been pushed into huge parking lots. Cars don't run anymore. The police are inept and most murders go unsolved.
I know it is easy for me in 2012 to be critical of something written in 1966. Had this been written strictly for entertainment I believe that would be true, but this was written as a political statement by HH for planned parenthood. Most of the top sci-fi writers of the fifties and sixties wrote books warning us against overpopulation. Today they write about global warming, trying to scare us with a political statement. I am not saying they are wrong, I just believe it is important to look at some of the causes authors took up in the past and see just how wrong they got it. These authors did not see the advances in agriculture. They did not see the decreasing family size, due to changes in society. They did not have the vision to see just how large the world really is.
The book is written in two parts. I found the first part to be a bit slow and I did not find the love interest between the cop and the whore to be believable. Part 2 was more believable and more interesting, not enough to recommend the book, but if you do have it, you will want to continue listening.
My favorite books about overpopulation are Robert Silverberg's "The World Inside" and Frederik Pohl's " Space Merchants".
Harrison has written several engaging and funny SciFi novels. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. It's pretty dated by now; it's pretty plainly social commentary / political propaganda in the cause of birth control. I don't disagree with the message, but it doesn't make entertaining reading. More of an historical curiosity, as this is no longer a controversial issue.
I can't fault him for writing this, several decades ago. I am mystified why Audible or anyone else would want to record it so many years later.
Narration was fine.
None I can think of.
I guess I need to look more closely at the synopsis and comments, before buying a book, even from an author I thought I was familiar with.
The story was OK, but was set in the 90s before Y2K and thus was hard to relate to today,
Overpopulation is a theme, however, there's also a story that moves along, usually at a rapid clip. Good descriptiveness. Good character presentation.
The only element of sci-fi is the overpopulation. Some elements of mad max. Uptown NY still there in a society desolated by population.
This book is a not-even-veiled-at-all propaganda piece designed to frighten people about the looming threat of overpopulation. There honestly isn't even really that much of a story aside from that. There are characters, and they do things, but there's really not much of a story, and nobody really learns and grows. It's kind of depressing and not altogether a very enjoyable read.
"A darkly compelling vision of the future"
An outstanding reading of Harry Harrison's classic distopian vision of a future, in which mankind is on the verge of breeding itself to death, having consumed virtually all the world's resources as the population continues to grow at an exponential rate.
In the cities, food and water are subject to rationing for all but the corrupt and wealthy few. Homelessness is rife, with most of the population living on the streets or in makeshift shelters. It's against this backdrop that New York detective Andy Rusch investigates the murder of a wealthy - and very shady - businessman, hooking up with the dead man's moll in the process.
This main thread of the novel is a police procedural, with shades of '30s pulp detective fiction. While gripping in its own right, it serves primarily to provide a context in which the protagonists - Rusch, his girlfriend Shirl and Billy Chung, a young boy for whom a life of crime and misfortune are an inevitable consequence of his impoverished circumstances - interact with the drab, mundane horror of the world they live in.
Make Room! Make Room! has been on my to-read list for years and this audio rendition perfectly realises everything I'd hoped the book would be. The novel is unrelentingly dark, teasing listeners with a tantalising glimmer of hope, only to snatch it away in an instant.
While some of the social issues Harrison confronts have perhaps lost their immediacy (in most of the western world, at least), others, including environmental depredation, global overpopulation and the class divide are still every bit as relevant as when the book was first written.
The text is also of particular interest in the context of the time it was written, with a progressive (if typically bleak) attitude to women's and civil rights that's not found in many other stories of the era.
"Not what I expected"
I bought this on the strength of the film Soylent Green, but it feels more like Bladerunner without the gunfire.
"Soyent" added components to the book that gave the story more of an edge, while the book just meanders without really getting anywhere.
However, there IS a seriously good point about over-population. I just believe that other writers have done better in this area.
Report Inappropriate Content