The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Karel apek published The Absolute at Large at the beginning of his career, showing early his fascination with futurology. The interest manifested itself in several other works. The story concerns a young Czech engineer, Rudolph Marek, who invents a machine called the Karburator, which uses atomic energy without any residue, which he calls the Absolute. A manufacturer, G. H. Bondy, inspects the machine and is overcome by a strange euphoria resembling that of religious ecstasy. This absolute, godlike power of the machine made the inventor anxious to sell it. Whatever it is—an intoxicating, stimulating gas developed by the process of complete combustion, a form of X ray, or some hitherto unknown power—it affects everyone coming in contact with it and transports them into religious ecstasy. Concerned only with profit and seeing in the Karburator the realization of a centuries-old dream of a cheap, pure source of energy, Bondy buys the machine and sells it worldwide.

After Karburators have been installed throughout the world, their impact becomes evident. Because they enhance religious fervor, people love one another more, factory owners become philanthropists, and religious fanaticism increases everywhere. These developments are offset by opposite effects. Workers protest insane overproduction, the loss of jobs as the machines take over, and the depletion of raw materials. Unnecessary work is undertaken because the machines demand work. Church...

(The entire section is 487 words.)