Philip Jose Farmer of Peoria, Illinois, is one of the great masters of science fiction. The first of a new series, Dayworld, depicts events in seven distinctly different, wild Manhattan life-styles of the year 3414 A.D.
By portraying a future world government rooted in modern ideas and dilemmas, Farmer continues the science fiction tradition of sounding warnings of possible manipulations of science by the Powers-That-Be. This is a strange world where the ubiquitous government has solved overpopulation by as signing each person one day per week to live. The other six days the people are “stoned”; that is, they literally turn to stone in suspended animation. Each body lives seven times a normal lifespan—one day a week at a time—in one reality of an Earth with seven separate realities. Three hundred thousand people a day live on the island of Manhattan, but the total population is 2,100,000. By becoming seven separate worlds, they have done away with sea sons, which pass for the inhabitants in only a few waking days. All this unfortunately results in a society of sluggish change that loses six generations for every generation born. And to more fully consolidate their grasp on a population already so regulated, the government proposes to implant in every adult a microtransmitter that would constantly emit a coded I. D. signal to satellites and local tracking stations.
Opposing this nefariousness and chafing under the new proposals is a rebel group possessing an elixer that extends life seven times the seven times allotted by the world government by cleansing plaque from the arteries and by drastically suppressing the inherent agent of aging. This is a secret the rebels are willing to kill for to preserve for themselves because it allows their top agents to live seven separate lives—one each day of the week. This “day-breaking” life-style is threatened by the strict world government’s spying and new regulations.
Drawn within the standard potboiler formulas for multiple-personality disorders, the hero of the novel is Jeff Caird, a “Jeffersonian” rebel whose “day breaking” causes him to become a new person every day. Caird finds each of his selves threatened when the authorities close in on him, causing each self-image to clash with the others. Even as he struggles to bring his roles into harmony, he learns that his rebel group is all too willing to sacrifice him to preserve their secret. If he fails to cure his multiple personality disorders, Caird will end up gathering dust in some vast forgotten warehouse along with billions of other forgotten “stoned” souls.
But by allowing the world government to steal the life-giving secret from the rebels and to keep it secret for exclusive use of the ruling class, Farmer gives his series a neat excuse to continue for at least one more 320-page installment More seriously, the author points to the dangers of accepting the Powers-That-Be’s secrecy and lying and suggests that-for all its failures—democracy offers humanity a better way.
[Dayworld, Philip Jose Farmer; New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons]
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