Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review: 'Unisave' by Axel Madsen

1 / 5 Stars

‘Unisave’ (264 pp.) was published in February 1980 by Ace Books; the cover illustration is by Davis Meltzer.

‘Unisave’ is one of the worst SF book’s I’ve ever read.

I gave up on it at page 116, and getting that far was a real struggle. 

The premise is interesting, if not particularly novel: in the year 2188, the extension of the human lifespan to ages of 125, or even 150, has led to the growth of Earth’s population to unsustainable numbers. 

People live in enormous domed cities, while all land outside the domes is devoted to agriculture. Space colonies provide some degree of extra room, but the choice facing mankind is stark: the population must be reduced before catastrophic famine overwhelms the planet.

Unisave is a UN agency devoted to addressing the issue of overpopulation. Comprised of a multicultural team of sociologists, agronomists, demographers, and politicians, it will be up to Unisave to determine what, if any, measures can be used to avert a crisis. The number one contingency plan: forced euthanasia of randomly selected adults, based on a mass lottery, with no exemptions or exceptions.

The moral and philosophical dilemmas raised by employing such a measure in a humanistic society would seem to be suitable for some kind of dramatic narrative, but author Madsen simply isn’t up to the task. 

The reader is subjected to a remarkably dull and plodding narrative consisting of conversational exchanges between various UN bureaucrats. These passages of dialogue are eye-glazingly boring. 

There are SF terms and themes regularly popping up into the text, but so many other aspects of the book go awry that these themes are simply window-dressing. 

Madsen can’t even get the names of his characters right; every character sports a first name and surname of no more than two syllables, like in postwar-era juvenile sci-fi novels: Sal Belem. Viv Bord. Nilo Dor. Flo Hoo. 

One unfortunate woman even bears the appellation Ter Ki ……

Even readers with a fetish for overpopulation novels will find ‘Unisave’ hard going. This PorPor book is best left forgotten.


Gary R. Peterson said...

I appreciated this review (or maybe I should say "warning"!). Its premise would have interested me, being a fan of the films ZARDOZ and LOGAN'S RUN, movies which your description brought to mind.

I've been reading your 'blog for awhile and thoroughly enjoying it. I'm 44 and my formative years of pop culture fall pretty much within the years you cover. Except for Paul Kirchner's outstanding but underappreciated strip THE BUS (your review of which is what brought me here on a Google search) I was never a big fan of HEAVY METAL or of Richard Corben, but you're giving me a greater appreciation for them.

I'll be lookin' forward to future posts!

Gary in Omaha

Anonymous said...

I agree - the premise sounds great -- I LOVE sci-fi about the ramifications of overpopulation -- but this sounds horrible...

Anonymous said...

Now that I think about it, this sounds EXACTLY like Silverberg's equally dismal (downright AWFUL) early novel, Master of Life and Death (1955)... A rip-off for sure.