Monday, November 26, 2007

You Don’t Have To Be Mad To Work Here...

When I was a teenager, living in a small town and too impoverished to buy new books, my only source of SF apart from the local library was the dump bin of the local Woolworths, which contained a headily promiscuous mix of all kinds of imported and startlingly cheap US paperbacks. That’s where I picked up The Asylum World, mesmerized by the disturbingly psychotic cover. John Jakes is best known as the author of bestselling Bicentennial series, about American history seen through the lens of a single family, but before that success he wrote scads of fantasy and SF, including this swift, bleak satire. Published in 1969, it describes the travails of a delegation of Martian colonists on a diplomatic visit to Earth. Jakes is very good at the violent seediness of a New York turned into an insane asylum, which wasn’t much different from the contemporary actuality. He’s pretty good on the laviscious corruption of Earth’s politicians, too; the president is an idiot puppet of his Secretary. Sound familiar?


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