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‘The Human Herd’
Why Call them Back from Heaven by Clifford Simak

Thanks to Tony Cox for the loan of this fine book.

Why Call them Back from Heaven begins with a trial, in which a medic who failed to save a person’s brain function at death so that they would be able to enter a suspended animation program which promised to revive people in the future when cures were found for their aliments—including old age—is convicted by an artificially intelligent jury and sentenced to be barred from preservation in Forever Center. Forever Center controls the investments of some 90 billion people awaiting resurrection and is the most powerful force on earth, opposed only by religious nuts.

Dan Frost is the protagonist in this large cast of economic striving, truth wondering, lie-imbibing and God-seeking characters. Simak never steps outside the character perspective and practices exposition. Rather, he will switch to a minor character for perhaps a page or two and expose another facet of his drearily materialistic world through eyes and words of a realistically wrought character. Dan Frost is a media manager whose job is to place a positive spin on Forever Center as a wellness font for humanity and the best road forward. He is, however, becoming haunted by the inspired slogans of “hollies,” who place graffiti such as “why bring them back from heaven” and other thoughtful expressions which far exceed his department’s own drab efforts at thought control.

Then Dan finds out that he is the target of bad intentions from a fellow Forever Center executive…

Some examples of Clifford Simak’s outstanding prose science-fiction are quoted below:

“This is the way we live, he thought. Not myself alone, but many billion others. Not because we want to, not because we like it. But because it is a wretched way of life we’ve imposed upon ourselves, a meanness and a poverty, a down payment on a second life—the fee, perhaps, for immortality… All of us, he thought, with the sour taste of truth lying in the mouth, can be bought. There was no man in the world who was not up for sale.”

In terms of metaphor, Clifford Simak’s introspective prose pointed a very precise finger at the actual fabric of the world taking twisted shape as he wrote in 1967 of a vast pallid race of domesticated units of economic consumption and slavish assumption lost among the harsh towers of their soul-snuffing dreams.

Technological extrapolations are thoughtfully done and hold up, as is the social extrapolation of the effects of social security and retirement programs on the behavior of the protected population. “Hurry and huddle” the behavior of people obsessed with maintaining the prospects of long period of carefree leisure, was an alternative title for Simak’s book about the ultimate ennui of materialism taken to its logical extreme.

Organa: The Malfunction of Tray Sorenson

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