32. Make Room! Make Room!, Harry Harrison (December 17)
I wanted to read this book because I saw the movie Soylent Green when I was very young. I wanted to remember the story before I watched it again. As it turns out, some parts I didn’t remember at all, and others I did.
The story takes place in an overpopulated NYC in 1999 (it was written in 1966), just before the new year. The image the book paints of the city must have been a scary one to read back when it was first published. Now, it just seems a little ironic, and very spot-on.
In the book, NYC has 34 million people in it. The USA has 344 million people in it. The world has 7 billion.
There are currently 13 million people living in Tokyo, but 35 million in the entire metro area. And the USA’s current population is about 320 million. The world has 7.3 billion at the moment. So it’s interesting how close the book came to our actual numbers. I will say that living in a city (Tokyo) that is technically smaller than NYC, maybe having 34 million in the metro area isn’t so bad, or at least, as bad as Harrison makes it seem. I think there might have been some over-exaggeration regarding that, but it could have really only come from his imagination. I think that if the water and food were to go here the way they did in the book, Tokyo would probably look a LOT like the NYC in the book does.
What’s great is the reason WHY the US is apparently so overpopulated. Someone was clearly thinking ahead on this one: laws were passed to ban birth control and abortion. All over the world. So people had way too many kids, mass starvation and overuse of resources ensued, and the rest makes perfect sense.
It’s not exactly a political or environmentally geared story, except for one rant in the middle, but I think it was meant to be one.
This is another book where the movie is a bit of a departure: some things are more in focus, others are not. In the movie, beautiful young women in expensive apartments are referred to as ‘furniture’ (they come with the rent you pay), and the protagonist is an asshole. The movie goes past the book to discuss ‘Soylent Green’ (title of the film as well), and where it comes from. The book only mentions the soylent steaks, and what people THINK they are made of.
Bits and pieces are kept, some things changed or moved around, but the general ‘this, this and this happened’ is on-track. As usual, the book is a LOT better than the film.