This Perfect Day – Ira Levin
Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei
Led us to this perfect day.
Marx, Wei, Wood and Christ,
All but Wei were sacrificed.
Wood, Wei, Christ and Marx,
Gave us lovely schools and parks.
Wei, Christ, Marx and Wood,
Made us humble, made us good.
This amazing book starts off with this eerie chant, which is taught to very young children in school. The story is set in a seemingly perfect global society whose genesis is fuzzy. The story is a strong character-driven one, a glimpse into the future of what could be if the government could “create” Utopia. Uniformity is the defining feature; there is only one language and all ethnic groups have been eugenically merged into one race called “The Family”
The world is run by a super computer called UniComp, or Uni. Uni is a metaphor for God (or a god-like being) and controls everything, perfectly. Uni is the one who knows you best. Uni knows what job you will be good at, if you’ll be married, if you’ll have children, how long you will live, where you will live, what you’ll eat, drink, do, think. Uni takes care of everyone and everything. Since Uni is father, the Members are all brothers and sisters and refer to one another in that way. No decision is left up to you, no worries, no concerns. And if you do question anything, you’ll soon forget your concerns as you will be given an extra “treatment” (which, unknown to the Members is some sort of transdermal injection that is a mix of tranquilizers, birth control, hormones, etc) and you will become satisfied and compliant immediately. Every member on the planet is controlled by a combination of “treatments”, advisors, self-reporting or reporting of other Members and a silver bracelet every Member must wear and scan periodically throughout the day, so that Uni knows where you are at all times. You eat at scheduled times (totalcakes and cokes, everyday, every meal). You sleep when you’re told, watch TV when you’re told – in short, not a second of your day is left up to you. If you display any deviant behavior, like going for a walk, another Member will report you, not out of malice, but concern and you will be drugged back into compliance.
Except ….. there are some Members who are immune to the “treatments”. Their minds are not deadened. These people are called “The Incurables” and are a source of mystery and fear by Members. They live somewhere “over there” and are thought to be miserable creatures, animals almost. It is told that they murder, steal, get sick, die, starve, etc. They are portrayed in such a horrible way so that no-one will become too curious about them or their lifestyle (I feel a little North Korea vs The Rest of The World here). But sometimes, these incurables live among The Family and slowly plot against Uni as is evidenced by the “Fight Uni” graffiti found sprinkled throughout the public places.
I found this book incredibly fascinating. I know a few people to whom the idea of the government taking care of EVERYTHING sounds wonderful. No worries! No need for money because everything is given to you! No issue of having to make a decision or choose, it’s already been done! While that may sound nice, most haven’t thought of the consequences of such a world. Everything must be balanced, where there is good, there must be bad, otherwise the good loses its meaning. When all decisions are made for someone, without their input, that someone has lost all freedom. Freedom to think, choose, plan. And in the case of Uni and The Family, you have no choice at all. When/where you’ll sleep, when/where you’ll play, when/what you’ll eat, when you’ll watch TV, when and if you will be allowed take part in any creative activities (art, music, writing, photography, etc), when you’ll have sex (once a week according to Uni). If you’re permitted to have children, you’ll only be able to choose on of four names for a girl (Anna, Mary, Peace and Yin) or from four boys names (Bob, Jesus, Karl or Li). Instead of a surname, Members are distinguished by a “nameber”, a neologism from “name” and “number”.
This book left me feeling a bit unnerved but well entertained. This Perfect Day will definitely be one of those books I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys sci-fi, techno-thrillers, adventure, post-apocalyptic worlds and suspense. Don’t let the sci-fi definition scare you off, this is not about aliens and intergalactic wars. The characters are people living in a future society, an alternative history that might result from a combination of Marxism and a single World Government and possibly serving as a warning to anyone who would push for this type of society. While promoting equality, plenty for all, peace and well-being, all socialistic/communistic societies have a nearly invisible, sometimes secret group who practice meritocracy. This secret group enjoys luxuries far beyond what most of the common people could ever imagine. In This Perfect Day, that group is called the programmers and you’ll have to read the book to find out where they fit in!
This Perfect Day is a heroic science fiction novel of a technocratic false-utopia. Written by author Ira Levin and published by Open Road Media partnered with Pegasus Books.