Make Room! Make Room!
By Harry Harrison
No, soylent isn’t people in this 1966 novel, which was the basis for the 1973 film Soylent Green. In fact, the movie didn’t have much to do with Harry Harrison’s book at all, aside from the general message about overpopulation.
Reading it today, I find that message to be the least pressing part. We’re no longer so hung up on contraception, and the big scary numbers don’t impress. In the novel, on the eve of the millennium the population of the U.S. is 344 million and the global population 7 billion. It took a bit longer, but both numbers have been surpassed. The population of NYC is high at 35 million (it’s only 8.5 million today), but it’s not out of the ballpark for the global champs.
Instead, what still seems most relevant is the vision of a future running out of resources (fresh water, oil, food, living space), and the enormous gap between a very small elite and the miserable masses. Both the material and moral collapse of society are nicely realized in a naturalistic tale of crime and punishment that still has teeth.