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An excellent dystopian view of the future, "Make Room! Make Room!" shows a world that is depressingly believable...vastly overcrowded cities, failing infrastructure and the struggle to secure the basic necessities (especially water) dominate every-day life. The book is very prescient; it reflects current concerns over environmental destruction and exhaustion of natural resources, which seemed remote and hypothetical when the book was published in 1966 (only 4 years after "Silent Spring" started the environmental movement).
The novel is written as a police procedural set in the New York City of 1999. Making the protagonist a detective was effective as it allowed the reader to see many aspects of the "Make Room!" world in a natural manner. However, between the setting and the realities of police work, the book is very bleak.
The movie "Soylent Green" was loosely based on "Make Room! Make Room!" Very loosely. More accurately, the movie setting was taken from the book and some of the plot elements, but the story, the themes and the conclusion are very different. For example, there is no "soylent green" in the book at all. If you've seen the movie, you haven't read the book, or vice versa.
Those who want to study such things might want to compare "Make Room! Make Room!" to the more antiseptic future envisioned in "Brave New World" (which was written about 35 years earlier).
Summerer's narration is quite good. He really pulls the listener into the story, and his reading is well paced and the characters are voiced distinctly without much apparent strain on Summerer's part, or the listener's (it helps that there aren't really all that many characters).
In conclusion, an interesting, if depressing, listen.
21 of 22 people found this review helpful
I always seem to expect more from these classics than I get from them. This one is okay... kinda... it is very dry and we don't actually care that the whole world is starving to death (well, all of NYC is anyway)... the characters are all a bit of a jerk and the female character trades on her sex to get by. Oh, sure, this is par for the course for the genre and the era, but I always prefer when authors put some work into character development and have women be something other than independently mobile sex toys, or, perhaps, slothy neglectful mothers.
I guess Harrison's underlying premise is that overpopulation would starve out humanity (because "someone"/"the MAN" bans birth control) and, while that might have been an issue in the 60s, nowadays it is more likely that we will starve out humanity by virtue of genetic modifications, disease and toxic water contamination... End result = the same, but the process of getting there is mildly different (only mildly though because it is still "someone"/"the MAN" who puts their profits from fracking and oil pipelines ahead of clean water, for example).
Anyway, I am glad I read it and can accept that it is a product of its era, driven by the concerns of that era. I won't be looking for more books by Harrison though. The narration is fine. There is no swearing, sex or graphic violence.
12 of 14 people found this review helpful
An outstanding reading of Harry Harrison's classic distopian vision of a future, in which mankind is on the verge of breeding itself to death, having consumed virtually all the world's resources as the population continues to grow at an exponential rate.
In the cities, food and water are subject to rationing for all but the corrupt and wealthy few. Homelessness is rife, with most of the population living on the streets or in makeshift shelters. It's against this backdrop that New York detective Andy Rusch investigates the murder of a wealthy - and very shady - businessman, hooking up with the dead man's moll in the process.
This main thread of the novel is a police procedural, with shades of '30s pulp detective fiction. While gripping in its own right, it serves primarily to provide a context in which the protagonists - Rusch, his girlfriend Shirl and Billy Chung, a young boy for whom a life of crime and misfortune are an inevitable consequence of his impoverished circumstances - interact with the drab, mundane horror of the world they live in.
Make Room! Make Room! has been on my to-read list for years and this audio rendition perfectly realises everything I'd hoped the book would be. The novel is unrelentingly dark, teasing listeners with a tantalising glimmer of hope, only to snatch it away in an instant.
While some of the social issues Harrison confronts have perhaps lost their immediacy (in most of the western world, at least), others, including environmental depredation, global overpopulation and the class divide are still every bit as relevant as when the book was first written.
The text is also of particular interest in the context of the time it was written, with a progressive (if typically bleak) attitude to women's and civil rights that's not found in many other stories of the era.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
I bought this on the strength of the film Soylent Green, but it feels more like Bladerunner without the gunfire.
"Soyent" added components to the book that gave the story more of an edge, while the book just meanders without really getting anywhere.
However, there IS a seriously good point about over-population. I just believe that other writers have done better in this area.