Another book in my “S.F. Masterworks” collection.
Firstly, this is not a story book, it is a play, and it’s written as a play. Which is not to say it’s bad, it’s just different from what one is used to in ones sci-fi.
But i think the play part is where Karel doesn’t do the story, or his point, justice. Written as a play it’s just too hectic, too fast paced, with never ending characters just piling in their piece — basically, it’s the television of its day.
I think that most of what Karel was trying to say about the world and the future gets lost in a load of characters continuously having their say without any having any thoughts.
Yes, beware the robots, a metaphor for the means of production, because the hand that feeds us will eventually turn and bite us and destroy us all. But this point would have been made much better in a novel, but it is what it is.
For its time it is a great work of sci-fi, and also a direct critique upon humanity and society. And here we are 100 years after Karel wrote this and most people in the developed world are incapable of feeding themselves, clothing themselves, starting a real fire, making anything, etc.. We’ve sold our souls to technology and become completely dependent upon it. And whoever controls that technology controls humanity. That’s what is known as hydraulic despotism, or, as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen would say: ‘He who controls the spice, controls the universe.’
Final thoughts: Worth a quick read for all you anorak-ed, train spotting, sci-fi historians out there — but otherwise there’s not much point.