Friday, May 4, 2012

Review: This Perfect Day ~ by Ira Levin

this perfect day

This Perfect Day ~ by Ira Levin; Pegasus Books (2010). 

Originally published in 1970, this is a classic adult dystopian novel that portrays a frightening future in which a pseudo-government medicates its citizens and regulates all behavior, creating a hive like community. Everyone is equal and its adherents chant: "Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei led us to this perfect day".

About:   “Chip” (Li is his real name and one of four names for every man given by the society) is a member of a “perfect” society where the members are semi-sexless, have no discernable race and exist through genetic modification. They live a day-to-day drone like existence where men do not have to shave, women have no breasts, they all wear identical coveralls, eat cakes and drink coke for every meal, and everyone gets along.

When Chip decides what he really wishes to do with his life and expresses it out loud as a youngster, his desires are superficially quelled as unacceptable and is told he is to have the career chosen for him by the government for the good of the whole. Then one day his internally conflicted self meets up with a group of members who have figured out how to avoid taking their weekly scheduled meds. When Chip joins them temporarily, he finds he has never felt more alive and decides he wants to live this way everyday.

This is just a glimpse of what happens to Chip, because things become decidedly more involved as the story continues. 

Thoughts:  I enjoyed this classic novel – even though it did not completely absorb my interest for the entire novel since I did a fair amount of skimming; a key sign that the novel was not going to be a big favorite. It felt like the first part of story, detailing Chip’s life in this medically created  “utopian” society, went on a bit longer than needed for me. It did pick up in the second part of the novel and I do think that the story line is an intriguing one, and supports the fact that the book is often considered a corner-stone classic for the genre and included with the likes of 1984 and Clockwork Orange.

It also stimulated several questions – because as in all dystopian, this society is not as idyllic as it appears. I found I started asking myself: Who or what is leading and monitoring this society? What is their reason behind creating this pseudo-utopia? And are these leaders as altruistic as it first appears?

Recommended to anyone who enjoys social science fiction where a society has gone askew or indeed to anyone who plans to write one. So if you’re interested in a read that may be a bit chewy, or you would like the answer to the above questions, this will be a great story for you. For those not interested in reading the book, but who have a curiosity about the plot there is a complete summary (with spoilers) at its Wikipedia page.

So I give This Perfect Day a 3 stars. I would have considered it torture as a teenager forced to read it in a high school literature class, like when I read 1984, but as an adult it was quite a decent read with a complex and surprising plot.

This Perfect Day was written in 1970 and won the Prometheus Award soon after it was published. Ira Levin, its author, passed away in 2007 and also wrote other books now considered classics - The Boys from Brazil, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Stepford Wives. The novel has been consistently re-published over the years with a variety of interesting covers. This latest publication makes the book available in e-book format.

I will be including this book in The Basics Challenge where I explore speculative fiction and Fill in the Gaps.

Thanks for reading.


Alexia561 said...

Nice review! I don't think I've ever read Ira Levin, but have Rosemary's Baby on a shelf somewhere. Nice to know that it's still relevent after all this time!

Unknown said...

Alexia -
Thank you, I think I have read bits and pieces of Rosemary's Baby and have seen the movie in my tweens. So it's a distant memory...
It's definitely horror.

I do think that this book is relevant in parts, but you can really feel the "free love seventies" attitude, and perhaps the premonition of the "medication of America" that has come of age in recent years.

ChristasBooks said...

I've actually never heard of this book - though I have heard of his other work. It sounds like a really interesting read and one I'd like to talk about with others. Possibly a good pick for my science fiction/fantasy book club.

Unknown said...

Christa -
I had never heard of it either until the publicist contacted me. But I am interested in more adult dystopians recently rather than teen (which I am a bit tired of.)

Yes, this would be a perfect book for a book club discussion! I would love to be part of that conversation or just a fly on the wall to see what you all think about things.

As always thanks for commenting!

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