The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The novel relates a few months in the life of Arthur Bass, born immune to the analogue machines that, via instilled mental imagery, control the behavior of virtually all humans in the year 2134. Unable to function robotically in a world of fanatical capitalistic consumption and ideological indoctrination, Bass is discovered and rescued by a covert society of Immunes. They enlist his aid in bringing to eventual fruition their plan to rescue and control a schizophrenic Earth fallen victim to human greed and machine power.

The analogue machines were created as a means to control the criminally insane by instilling mental images. A prior authority figure in one’s life would appear and prevent that person from committing a forbidden act such as striking another human. Soon afterward, American capitalists realized the potential of the analogue treatment as ultimate guarantor of free market consumption and profit. They contractually manipulated consumers to buy only from them, with analogue treatment as guarantee.

The result, after approximately 150 years, was a schizophrenic America, deeply divided ideologically and physically. Consumers and Executives in Umerc (United Mercantile Territory) have the motto “buy,” and their sexuality is almost totally suppressed. They are separated by a high wall from the bacchanalian celebration of Weekend, in nearby Darien. The promiscuous mobs there have the motto “live” and attach little significance to...

(The entire section is 516 words.)