Book Review: Make Room! Make Room! By Harry Harrison (Three Stars)


Book Review: Make Room! Make Room! By Harry Harrison

(Three Stars)

“By the end of the century, should our population continue to increase at the same rate, this country will need more than 100 per cent of the world’s resources to maintain our current living standards.”

Cutting-edge social commentary then. On the bandwagon bleating about over population and over consumption, followed by a huge die off. So incorrect as to be ironic. By 1973 they rewrote the plot for the movie Soylent Green because the over-population red shirt had worn thin.

“You know well enough that birth control has nothing to do with killing babies. In fact it saves them.” No unwanted children, they promised us.

Not a bad story. It only drags when one of Harrison’s hand puppets sermonizes.

“The Loop? Absolutely foolproof and safe and harmless and all the rest.” Propaganda. Loops are very effective for about five years, if you ignore menstrual problems, perforation, expulsion, and ovarian cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Since Malthus, we’ve known the danger of making linear, or worse exponential, projections, but we keep doing it. Harrison, the Club of Rome, and The Population Bomb all wailed doomed. It hasn’t happened, though it still could.

“Whiskey. There was almost none being made now because of the grain shortage and each year the stored supplies grew smaller and the price increased.” Even if Harrison doesn’t understand supply and demand, he should remember the history of Prohibition.

“Couldn’t they just hire more policemen?” “With what? There’s no money in the city budget, almost all of it goes for Welfare.”

If, with a population of 35 million in 1999, “the New York City averaged seven murders a day,” that’s low. Especially factoring in a heat wave, drought, and collapse of the economy. (Speaking of which, shouldn’t inflation have been through the roof?)

“They never baptize the kids until after they are a year old because most of them are dead by that time and baptisms cost a lot of money.” Anti-Catholic untruth.

Technological howlers abound, though Harrison does a better at projecting the near future than many more famous science fiction authors. The electronic revolution of the past fifty years, if forecast in 1969, would have met skepticism. “I can’t get the tube, so I get a couple transistors and breadboard up a circuit that will do the same job. It’s not easy, I tell you.” It was/is.

“They’re going to be damn unhappy when the world doesn’t come to an end at midnight ….” “We’ll be a lot unhappier if it does.”