It is my intent to review this book without spoiling any of the important plot devices. I dove into this story without a clue as to what I was in for, other than that it was about an Earth that had become overcrowded–and that much can be gleaned from the title. I recommend you do the same: get a hold of this title, whether in print or on Kindle, and consume it.
Since you’re reading my words–and not yet the author of the story’s–I suppose you want a little bit more. Robert Bloch (best-known for writing Psycho, the basis for the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name, as well as its later adaptations) created This Crowded Earth as a dystopian novella set beginning four decades in the future, in 1997. By then, planet Earth is devastatingly overpopulated and the attempted regulations and laws have done little to thwart its continuance. Dr. Leffingwell, however, has come up with a solution.
Through the quick 96 pages, and the 68 years the story encompasses, both the story’s unwitting subject, Harry Collins, and the reader are left desperate for the truth and trying to unravel the mystery of who can be trusted, and what’s really going on.
The story is surprisingly prescient. While the proposed solution to the overpopulation situation is purely science fiction, its not too far-fetched that you couldn’t imagine some of the fringe conspiracy theorists of AM talk radio raving it about as fact. (That’s both an acknowledgement of Bloch’s ingenuity, and an indictment of modern, cynical hysteria.)
The tempo is quickening. While it took mankind thousands of years to move from the bow and arrow to the rifle, it took only a few hundred to move from the rifle to the thermonuclear weapon. It took ages before men mastered flight, and then in two generations they developed satellites; in three, they reached the moon and Mars.
– This Crowded Earth by Robert Bloch
Just as it goes in real life, the effects of Collins’s government’s benevolence–the desperation of policy-makers to do more good than harm–is shadowed by the inevitable: collateral damage of a most-disturbing kind. This theme plays off of the result of a worldwide e cold war, in which the threat of mutually-assured destruction has guaranteed peace on Earth.
Bloch’s writing is crisp and witty. The story is short enough to be consumed in the course of a couple of hours, but long enough for the reader to become involved in the story and attached to the characters. It’s also one of those stories that sticks with you, the ones you find yourself thinking about days or more after finishing it. This Crowded Earth is a worthwhile investment for any reader’s repertoire.