Joachim Boaz tweets that today is Mack Reynolds' birthday. In late 2011 I read Reynolds' novel Commune 2000 A.D., a Frederick Pohl selection with a very cool red cover. My copy also has an eight page ad for the novel All Creatures Great and Small bound inside, which is much more fun than the cigarette ads you sometimes find in these old SF paperbacks.
I didn't recall very much about the book, but fortunately I had my Amazon review of December 27, 2011, pasted below, to refresh my memory:
Published in 1974, Mack
Reynolds' novel, Commune 2000 A.D. depicts a North America in which 90
percent of the population is unemployed and on government assistance,
and yet everyone leads a comfortable lifestyle, with plenty of food,
beautiful spacious housing, efficient public transportation, and an
array of electronic devices (including what we would now call cell
phones and internet access.) Crime and envy are almost entirely
eliminated, and there is no paper money or coins, all transactions being
done through what we would call debit cards. There is no pollution and
the landscape has been restored, with factories and highways
underground. Computers and automation make this utopia possible. In
fact, every year people take an intelligence/aptitude test, and the
government computers select the best individuals for the tiny number of
The fact that everyone has a middle class income
and lifestyle without working allows them to leave the cities and band
together into communes of the like-minded (for example, a commune of
homosexuals, a commune of artists, a commune of people who like to get
high on drugs every day, etc.) The main character, a graduate student
in the social sciences, is tasked by his graduate adviser to write his
thesis on the communes, and he travels from commune to commune,
interviewing communards and taking notes.
There is not much plot
to the book. The main character travels from commune to commune, and,
because he is very skilled in bed and this is a very promiscuous
society, he has sex with a beautiful woman in every commune. In the
last 20 pages or so we suddenly get some plot momentum, with the
conspiracy behind the communes, and the conspiracy in the government,
both revealed, and the main character having to choose which one to ally
with. What are the chances that he will join up with the conspiracy
that has been throwing beautiful women at him?
This is a talky
book, with lots of dialogue about life in the various communes and lots
of anthropological and historical trivia - early in the book we read
about the sexual positions favored by different civilizations, and get a
lecture on the history of the mobile home in 20th century America.
Later we get a recipe for cannabis brownies and a boring description of
an LSD trip.
The book is also devoid of passion; most books about
a socialistic future will be bashing your head in trying to convince
you that our current market economy is horrible, or bashing your head in
trying to convince you that the socialist economy we are headed for is
horrible. In Commune 2000 A.D. there are some mild criticisms of a
society in which 90% of people are on the dole, and some mild criticisms
of 20th century exploitation of the environment, but neither the book's
characters nor Mack Reynolds seem very exercised over anything (with
the possible exception of homosexuals, both gay men and lesbians, who
are portrayed in a rather unsympathetic light.)
Lacking in the
plot department and the point department, Commune 2000 A.D. is a limp,
tepid read. It is not offensively bad, but when you are done you wonder
why the hell it was written or published.
Oh yeah, now I remember why I haven't read the other Reynolds book I own.