Approaching Oblivion by Robert Silverberg
This book has three stories and here I have reviewed two of them.
The World Inside written by Robert Silverberg and published in 1971. The novel first chapter was first published in 1970 as a short story titled "A Happy Day in 2381". The World Inside was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1972.
The world has eradicated war, starvation, crime and birth control. Life is now totally fulfilled and sustained within Urban Monads (Urbmons), mammoth thousand-floor skyscrapers arranged in "constellations", where the shadow of one building does not fall upon another. An Urbmon is divided into 25 self-contained "cities" of 40 floors each, in ascending order of status, with administrators occupying the highest level. Each building can hold approximately 800,000 people, with excess population totaling three billion a year transferred to new Urbmons, which are continually under construction.
The Urbmons are a world of total sexual freedom where men are expected to engage in "night walking", in line with the ideals of free love in the 60s, it is considered a crime for a woman to refuse an invitation for sex. In this world it is a blessing to have children: most people are married at 12 and parents at 14.
Although great effort is spent to maintain a stable society, the Urban Monad lifestyle causes mental illness in a small percentage of people, and this fate befalls two of the book's main characters. "Social engineers" reprogram those who are approaching an unacceptable level of behavior.
The Urbmon population is supported by the conversion of all of the Earth's habitable land area not taken up by Urbmons to agriculture. The theoretical limit of the population supported by this arrangement is estimated to be 200 billion. The farmers live a very different lifestyle, with strict birth control and pagan rights. Farmers trade their produce for technology and the two societies rarely have direct contact; even their languages are mutually unintelligible.
The characters in the story all show different aspects of life in the Urbmon. Some, like Aurea Holston, are breaking down from the life they live in. She also laments her lack of children.
Siegmund Kluver is also mentally falling apart, from the realization that the shining, smiling, happy façade of the Urbmon is covering a nightmare that he cant wake up from.
He is related to Michael Statler a computer tech that escapes the Urbmon, learns about the Farmers civilization and when he returns is greeted with the swift justice that helps maintain the harmony of the Urbmon.
Approaching Oblivion (50 books in a year) by Harlan Ellison
Approaching Oblivion is a collection of short stories by author Harlan Ellison. The short stories had appeared in a variety of magazines throughout the early 1970s with the exceptions of "Paulie Charmed the Sleeping Woman" which first appeared in 1962 and "Ecowareness" which was previously unpublished.
According to the introduction, the book was originally conceived in 1970 as a call to action, that would contain cautionary tales from Ellison's previous books. Over the next four years the book changed to include previously uncollected stories with underlying themes of disillusionment and futility in rebelling.
The foreword by fiction author Michael Crichton paints a picture of Ellison as an energetic, eclectic, uncompromising, and sometimes obstinate individual. It also describes the struggle and resentment felt by many of the people who have worked with Ellison in the movie business. I had previously heard about Ellisons confrontation with Star trek and Paramount, an ongoing legal battle over the script for city on the edge of forever.
Approaching Oblivion includes a Forward: Approaching Ellison by Michael Crichton as well as the Introduction: Reaping the Whirlwind. The stories it contained are;
Kiss of Fire
Paulie Charmed the Sleeping Woman
I'm Looking for Kadak
Silent in Gehenna
One Life, Furnished in Early poverty
I liked Knox, Paulie Charmed the Sleeping Woman, One Life, Furnished in Early poverty
Ecowareness, and Catman.