Sunday, September 22, 2013

Book Review: Nowhere on Earth

Book Review: 'Nowhere On Earth' by Michael Elder

2 / 5 Stars

'Nowhere On Earth' was first published in 1972 in the UK by Robert Hale; this mass-market paperback edition was published in the USA by Pinnacle Books in June, 1973. The cover artist is not identified.

The novel is set in the UK in the year 2173. The population stands at 450 million, 5,000 people per square mile, and it's growing. Most of the open land in the British Isles has been paved over to contain high-rise communal apartment, or 'comapt', buildings, which can accommodate the teeming masses only through the use of revolving periods of 8-hour habitation (while one set of lodgers are at work, another set sleeps; when the latter wakes and goes off to work, the other occupants come home for their sleep period).

To keep social unrest from crippling this precarious system, the ruling authorities utilize 'Thought Police', a force comprised entirely of telepaths. The Thought Police constantly hover over the pedways of the city in their air-cars, scanning the minds of the populace, and directing police to apprehend those citizens harboring disruptive thoughts.

When Roger Barclay accompanies his pregnant wife to the hospital, he is filled with anticipation over the forthcoming birth of his daughter. However, Barclay receives crushing news from the doctor attending the birth: due to unforseen complications, both mother and child are dead. Barclay is allowed a brief moment alone with their corpses before they are consigned to the crematorium.

Devastated, Barclay returns to his comapt, there to lie in a stupor. His reverie is interrupted by a vidphone call from none other than his late wife !

Barclay soon finds himself caught up in the sinister machinations of the government and its efforts to control the population. But if he is to have any hope of rescuing his wife, first he will have to discover the truth behind the rumors of a resistance movement, and its charismatic leader, Cornelius Gunn.....

'Nowhere On Earth' is a middling sf novel. Author Elder is a competent writer, and the narrative moves at a good pace.The premise of a dramatically overcrowded England would seem to be a good setting for a sf novel published in the heydays of the Population Crisis. 

But I failed to find the novel all that engaging. The plot is more of a backdrop on which the author can tackle the moral and philosophical issues of government surveillance of the thoughts and desires of the inhabitants of his created world, rather than a novel analysis of the way an overpopulated UK might be managed. The book's ending veers into a 'cosmic' solution to things that struck me as contrived.

Unless you're determined to read every sf novel from the early 70s that deals with overpopulation, 'Nowhere On Earth' can be passed by.

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