Wednesday, July 25, 2007

2018 A.D., by Samuel J. Lundwall

(pb; 1975)

From the back cover:

"They needed the first girl born in the first minute of the first day of the first year of the Twenty-first Century. They needed her for an ad campaign that would put millions into the accounts of the giant conglomerate that owned it, and rom there into an unpublicized holding company that controlled that, and thence into the secret Swiss bank account that directed the holding company, and from there to the numbered box that ran the account, and from there to -- nobody knew, not even the Swiss bankers. But though the life of everyone in the world was supposed to be taped on computerized credit records down to the smallest detail, hers was not. They knew her name, and that was all.

"When this book was published in Sweden it became a controversial but immediate bestseller -- it was too uncomfortably prophetic to be just satirical science fiction. Its musical accompaniment, entitled King Kong Blues, became a top hit record -- a rock-beat for the next century. What Brave New World meant for the Thirties, what 1984 meant for the Forties, what A Clockwork Orange meant for the Sixties, 2018 A.D. means for the Seventies."


This chilling, hilarious and dystopian novel could almost be describing the world today. Public schools are "run by private companies working on 'performance contracts'." Cameras monitor citizens everywhere. Reality must-see snuff TV rules the dumbing-down boxes. Water, corporate-owned, is in man-made shortage. Pensioner "gangs" -- old men desperate for money to survive -- run amok in the streets, assaulting law-abiding citizens. The Mafia quietly runs a media-trumpeted "slum" (actually a den of vice) called Squatter City, where those desperate to escape detection and monitoring flee.

It's in this tableau that Erik Lenning, a married ad man who's secretly into BDSM, tracks down Anniki Norijn, a mysterious twenty-something actress and sometimes escort. Other characters, succinctly portrayed, populate Lundwall's vision as well: Leonard J. Kockenbergh Jr. (Lenning's boss); Tim Eulenspiegel (a City South slumlord who's also one of Anniki's tricks). And, more importantly, Sheik Yarasin ar-Rechehidd, a Saudi who's the "true [finanical and political] master of the world," and is making startling business decisions that just might bring everything down (e.g., moving the European and American auto industries into Siberia).

There are so many classic lines in this milestone novel that I don't even know where to begin (on that count). Simply put, this is heady stuff, well worth your time and money.

Lundwall includes a bibliography of then-current news articles that inspired 2018 A.D. (I love it when authors do that), that add to the eerie reality of the work.

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