Although Philip José Farmer’s The Lovers has many of the gimmicks of science fiction (including spaceships, aliens, linguistic problems, long-distance travel made possible by cryogenics, distant planets, and destructive warfare), the real focus of the novel is the psycho-sexual restrictions placed on human beings by the all-powerful Sturch.

Forms of physical control and thought control appear often in science fiction, notably in George Orwell’s bleak Nineteen Eighty-four (1949). The Lovers presents oppression with a somewhat lighter touch than is usual. There is no Big Brother who watches every move. Farmer opts for a form of self-reporting or monitoring by citizens, whereby they watch one another. Punishment is threatened but mostly takes the form of a demotion in rank, not death or banishment.

Farmer’s protagonist, Hal Yarrow, is able to resist his society and rebel in small ways. His mentor or gapt, Pornsen, gently chides him back to the prescribed path. Pornsen also commits small lapses in the system, so that Hal occasionally can bribe him or use him for some benefit. Thus, unlike Nineteen Eighty-four, The Lovers gives the protagonist a chance to defeat the system or run away from it.

The Sturch plans Hal’s life, allows him a wife who submits to his desires, and keeps him gainfully employed, but at the cost of his individuality and some of his desires. Hal’s rebellious...

(The entire section is 417 words.)