Novel Review - The World Inside by Robert Silverberg
The World Inside
by Robert Silverberg from 1971, a novel built from previous short stories.
TLDR: 5 out of 5 stars - among my favourite social science fiction novels read in the last few years.
The World Inside imagines life in on earth in the distant future, mostly confined to giant arcologies . It was inspired by a population growth scare in the late 60's and by Solieri's work on arcologies.
Here's the back cover blurb:
Welcome to Urban Monad 116. Reaching nearly two miles into the sky, the one thousand stories of this building are home to over eight hundred thousand people living in peace and harmony. In the year 2381 with a world population of over seventy-five billion souls, the massive Urbmon system is humanity's salvation.
Life in Urbmon 116 is highly regulated, life is cherished, and the culture of procreation is seen as the highest pinnacle of god's plan. Conflict is abhorred, and any who disturb the peace face harsh punishment—even being sent "down the chute" to be recycled as fertilizer.
Jason Quevedo, a historian, searches records of the twentieth century hoping to find the root of his discontent with the perfection of Urbmon life.
Siegmund Kluver, a young and ambitious administrator, strives to reach the top levels of the Urbmon's government and discovers the civilization's dark truths.
Michael Statler, a computer engineer, harbors a forbidden desire. He dreams of leaving the building—of walking in the open air and visiting the far-off sea. This is a dream he must keep secret. If anyone were to find out, he'd face the worst punishment imaginable.
The World Inside is a fascinating exploration of society and what makes us human, told by a master of speculative fiction.
The World Inside is a 1971 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella.
Silverberg offers a fascinating look at contemporary society by showing us something of a caricature - much the way The Forever War, does. The World Inside offers a snapshot of life inside Urban Monad 116 in seven tight chapters, almost all of which focus on a different character in a different predicament (although almost all characters tend to reappear in minor roles in other chapters). It's a world of sex, social hierarchy, psychadelic drugs, and more sex. A utopia for most, but a dystopia for a few flippos.
I really enjoyed this book. It's a tightly and elegantly wrought novel, in spite of being a make-up novel. It has engaging characters living in a fascinating environment. I'll be thinking about it for a while. It isn't for everyone, though - it has lots of sex, which might cause some of you to steer clear, and implied sexism, too. 5 stars.