A for Anything

By Damon Knight

Rating: 2 stars

This was an intensely irritating book for me. It starts with the invention of the ‘gismo’, a device that can duplicate anything placed on it, with no expenditure of energy. From this, it would seem that a Paradise for mankind should arise, but within two or three chapters, we see that the book decides to take a very different line with this idea. With material possessions now no longer an issue, there still needs to be some way of differentiating ‘grades’ of people: so slavery returns.

This came completely out of left-field for me, but after thinking about it, it sort of makes a kind of sense. If all that is left of value is labour, then who controls it controls the society. I think this is a very American attitude, well, a certain sort of extreme right-wing American, a European book with a similar premise would probably have gone along very different lines.

The majority of the book is set about 70 years after the invention of the gismo, when the new slave society is established as we follow a young freeman sent off by his family to spend a year as an officer in the army of the local ‘baron’ in an almost Gormenghastian mountain castle/estate.

There were some interesting ideas, especially later in the book following a slave revolt, but I just couldn’t get past the opening premise and failed to really enjoy this book. Particularly the rather bleak ending.

Book details

ISBN: 9781892884015
Publisher: Cascade Mountain Publishing
Year of publication: 1959

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