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Make Room! Make Room!

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First published in 1966, Harrison's novel of an overpopulated urban jungle, a divided class system—operating within an atmosphere of riots, food shortages, and senseless acts of violence—and a desperate hunt for the truth by a cynical NYC detective tells a classic tale of a dark future.

300 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published November 1, 1966

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About the author

Harry Harrison

1,200 books950 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Harry Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey) was an American science fiction author best known for his character the The Stainless Steel Rat and the novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966), the basis for the film Soylent Green (1973). He was also (with Brian W. Aldiss) co-president of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 782 reviews
Profile Image for Leo ..
Author 2 books382 followers
June 26, 2021
McDonald's springs to mind!👍🐯

Monsanto too!
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,219 reviews9,923 followers
May 3, 2018
Here is a 1966 novel about 1999 which is good, honest, miserable fun. The main guy who is a cop gets to be really happy for about two pages and after that it’s back to worrying about absolutely everything.

It’s New York City and the population has skyrocketed to 35 million. The whole damn country has kind of collapsed. There are no more private cars. Tobacco is a thing of the past. There are meateasies! This is because you can get your meat but you have to know where. But pretty much everything is now scarce because Americans in the 30 years between 1966 and 1999 ate everything and used up everything whilst all having ten kids who then had another ten kids each, it seems.

You wouldn’t want to live in this version of New York City. You wouldn’t want to even visit it for ten minutes.


This humble word is Harry Harrison’s absolute favourite. No idea why. If you had a shot of vodka each time he uses the word CHUNK you’d be dead of severe alcoholic poisoning before page 90. My own favourite word is GALLIMAUFRY but you don’t see me shoehorning it into every review willynilly. Willynilly is another of my favourite words.


My latest literary insight is that in most novels, especially thrillerish ones, the protagonist has no friends. (Check the last three novels you read.) I think this is because it would make the story too complicated and annoying for the author & would get in the way of the action. Make Room! Make Room!’s two main characters begin with one sort of friend for him* and none for her. Novelists, this is very unrealistic. People have friends! Even I have friends!

*Our hero’s friend is nothing more than a SOCK PUPPET so that Harry Harrison can explain his ideas of how overpopulation killed the USA and will kill the whole human race unless we embrace birth control. The message of this novel couldn’t be clearer if Harry Harrison personally came round to your house and nailed it to your forehead. With another copy to be cellotaped to your bedroom mirror.


In a one page afterword written in 2008 at the age of 83 HH says : “How right were my predictions? Pretty bad in most of the general details” but then he does say there’s too many damn people and the developed world is soaking up all the planet’s resources. Which we know. He predicted the population of NYC would increase from 8 million in 1966 to 35 million in 1999 which is RIDICULOUS. But there is now a city – Chongqing – which Wiki tells me has reached 30 million. And others aren’t far behind (Shanghai, 24m, Delhi, 21m). The biggest population growth is in the developing world, and this tells us that HH didn’t understand the part which says that there is a correlation between affluence and family size. So the families of western people shrank over the 20th century (I can see this in my own family – grandparents generation 9 or 10 children; parents’ generation two or three; my own generation one or two or NONE.)


Even though it’s a bit of a miseryfest, it zips along and HH has a real relish for all the horrible details.

A CHUNKy three stars from me.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
February 11, 2012
Color me happy and more than a little surprised to be decorating this review with as many stars as I am because I went into this novel with pretty subdued expectations. I would say expectations on par with those I hold for the latest cinematic embarassment by Mr. Dickoless Cage. I know that's not very nice, but I will never, never forgive that talent-free ass bozo for effectively castrating Ghost Rider in front of the general public, despite being a self-described fanboy of the character. The guy should be tied up in a Pulp Fiction style basement and JAMhandled by the gimp.

WOW, okay...I am way off on a tangent here aren't I?...let's get back to the book.

Where was I? Oh yeah....

So leaving aside shitty actors with no ability, this is an excellent novel and a very welcome surprise. Written in 1966 (but taking place in 1999) the story posits a world reaping the results of massive over-population and the depletion of natural resources....which of course we know could NEVER really happen and is just one of those wacky SF ideas these weirdo writers come up with. Hmm? Anyway, while loosely framed as a mystery involving a hard-boiled detective investigating a murder, this plot device is really just a means by which the author explores the future society of New York City (population 35 Million, as opposed to the just under 10 Million of present day 2011).

What really grabbed me by the fruits about the story is the terrific sense of place the author establishes through random, but well chosen, details about life in this "future" New York. Harrison is able to seamlessly weave into the narrative the most fascinating snapshots of the world without resorting to big, drawn out expositional paragraphs. I was very impressed by his control over his story. This novel is a lesson in exceptional world-building.

We learn significant background details such as information involving food riots, foodstuffs made from plankton, soy bean and lentil steaks, ever increasing prices of commodities, water shortages, debates about birth control, and that all of the characters suffer from physical ailments resultng from mal-nutrition or disease. The author provides this well fleshed, intricate picture of the world without dropping major dumps of info that would clog up the natural flow of the story.

Well done, sir. Well done indeed.

In addition to the exceptionally delivered background info, the characters are very much three dimensional and act pursuant to complex and subtle motivations. This kind of high level development is unusual for this kind of short 60's science fiction novel. Again the author exceeed expectations and his ability to do that consistently is worthy of serious kudos.

To sum up, this is a terriific story. While not up to the "all time great" status of a book like Stand on Zanzibar (which is my standard for this kind of science fiction story), this is certainly an outstanding story and among the best of its type that I have read.

Profile Image for Beverly.
835 reviews314 followers
September 20, 2019
A science fiction classic

Quite unlike the movie, Make Room, Make Room is a gloomy, glimpse into a New York burgeoning with too many people. The movie that is loosely based on it is Soylent Green. Andy Rusch is a city cop who is overworked and underpaid. He has one friend, Sol, an old man who also shares a room with him. During the investigation of a bigwig's murder, Andy meets a gorgeous woman who was the mistress of the newly deceased. They hit it off. As Andy investigates the crime, he and Shirl get closer, but will she be satisfied with a common man after living the high life in a world in which very few live decently?
Profile Image for Adrian.
574 reviews209 followers
September 20, 2019
A great book, depressingly enjoyable.

It's amazing but I don't think i have ever read this book before. So when it came up as a Group Read for the "Apocalypse Whenever" group, I voted for it and bought a kindle copy. One of the best decisions i've made.

It is set during 1999 in New York and proceeds all the way to the millennium. Now obviously it is 19 years past that date, and so it is interesting to see what Harry got right , and boy was it a lot. That said some of the "future" as portrayed by Harry is an over exaggerated view of what occurred.

Population out of control, horrendous pollution, over use of all the Earth's natural resources are just some of the issues facing the Earth and more especially the citizens of NY in this novel. Into this add a police force that is severely understaffed and over stretched . A police force that might spend only a few hours on each of the numerous murders that occur on a daily basis. That is until a "fixer and supplier" for some very wealthy people is murdered. Then pressure is brought to bear on the police force to solve this case quickly and not to just let it go. Add into the mix a beautiful girl, an old man with memories of pre problem days, a loyal and trustworthy bodyguard, a group of demonstrators known as the Eldsters (that'd be me 😬 ) , some religious nuts thinking the end is nigh and a young boy on the run.

A great story, depressing but enjoyable in the fact it is wonderfully written.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews806 followers
May 25, 2017
“So mankind gobbled in a century all the world’s resources that had taken millions of years to store up, and no one on the top gave a damn or listened to all the voices that were trying to warn them, they just let us overproduce and overconsume until now the oil is gone, the topsoil depleted and washed away, the trees chopped down, the animals extinct, the earth poisoned, and all we have to show for this is seven billion people fighting over the scraps that are left, living a miserable existence—and still breeding without control. So I say the time has come to stand up and be counted.”

Is overpopulation still a thing? When was the last time you heard it discussed? I don’t know the answer to that, there are opposing views on whether overpopulation still poses a significant threat to all of humanity or, since population growth has stabilized in many countries, some demographic analysts are saying that it is no longer a serious matter. Nowadays climate change is generally viewed as a more pressing issue.

In the 60s overpopulation was perceived as a major threat and it is one of the dystopian tropes often used by sci-fi authors. Several “overpopulation” sci-fi novels have become classics of the genre, John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, The Sheep Look Up by the same author, and Robert Silverberg’s The World Inside spring to mind. However, for me, the one emblematic sci-fi book on this subject is Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room!.

Make Room! Make Room! was first published in 1966, it is set in the (then) future of 1999, starting in August and ends shortly after midnight of January 1st, 2000. In this version of 1999, the global population is seven billion, food, water, electricity and living accommodations are scarce. In New York, where the novel is set, millions of people are living on the streets, public transportation is no longer in operation, and all basic necessities are strictly rationed. Wheat crackers have become a staple food, and meat is mostly only available in an artificial form called “soylent meat”, produced from soya beans.

But how do you tell a story about overpopulation? The concept does not seem to lend itself to conventional plotting. Harrison does this by focusing on just a few protagonists rather than writing an epic but fragmented novel about a large cast of characters. Detective Andy Rusch is the main character of this book, he shares a cramped little apartment with Sol, a retired engineer. Andy is assigned to investigate a murder of an “important businessman” called Michael O’Brien who is, in reality, a gangster with political connections. O’Brien lives in a walled off luxury apartment with access to unlimited electricity and water supply, they even have air conditioning. This is where Andy meets Shirl Greene, O’Brien’s girlfriend who was living with the murder victim and now has to move out. The two predictably form a relationship. To the readers the identity of the killer is not a mystery; it is a destitute teenager who attempted to burgle the apartment, and was caught in the act by O’Brien and accidentally killed him in self-defense.

The first half of the book is so focused on the murder investigation that I did wonder how this is a novel about overpopulation, let alone a sci-fi novel. However, the dystopia is always there in the background, in the state of Andy’s apartment, the people lying on the street that he has to step over to get into his home, his roommate powering their refrigerator by hooking it to a bicycle and cycling like mad. In the second half of the book, the murder investigation fades into the background and an accident causes sea water to seep into the water supply which is quickly shut down. Water become even more strictly rationed and is only available from “water stations” which has to be carried home in bottles and buckets. Children are beginning to contract kwashiorkor, a form of severe protein–energy malnutrition hitherto nonexistent in the US. Living condition deteriorates throughout the narrative and a massive city-wide riot seems imminent.

Make Room! Make Room! paints a grim and depressing picture of an overpopulated New York, it frighteningly depicts the dehumanizing effect of overpopulation. The way of life we take for granted is not sustainable under such conditions, even the simple human interrelationships between family members and friends are corroded by the constant suffering and hardship. Make Room! Make Room! is not a fun read as such, it is too harrowing for that, but it is a good, thought-provoking read. It is quite well written, with a clear straightforward prose, the characters are well developed and sympathetic. The fact that the actual year 1999 was nothing like this is not a reason to dismiss this cautionary tale out of hand. For all we know, Harrison has only overestimated the timing but the catastrophe he depicts here is still possible.

• The film adaptation of Make Room! Make Room! is much better known than the book. It is a 1973 movie called Soylent Green. It departs from the source material in many details (especially the titular foodstuff), but is true to the book’s spirit.

• Q: Is overpopulation still a problem?
• A: Yes / No / Maybe

Harry Harrison is one of the popular sci-fi authors during the 60s through to the 80s, his popularity declined a bit from the 90s onward. Sadly he passed away in 2012. Make Room! Make Room! is atypical of his output. He tended to write fast-paced, lighthearted sci-fi adventures, like his signature series The Stainless Steel Rat, my personal favorite of his book is West of Eden.

“The millennium is here, now, upon us a populous world of souls awaiting His call. This is the true millennium. False prophets said it was the year one thousand, but there are more people here in this single city than there were in the entire world at that time. Now is the hour, we can see it nearing, we can read the signs. The world can hold no more, it will crack asunder under the weight of the masses of people.”

“We can go without washing for a while, it won’t kill us, and when the water is connected up again we can all have a good scrub. It’s something to look forward to.”

“Face it, this city is through. What they need here is animal trainers, not policemen.”

“This whole country is one big farm and one big appetite. There’s just as many people down South as there is up North and, since there’s no public transportation, anyone who tried to walk to the land of sunshine would starve to death long before he got there. People stay put because the country is organized to take care of them where they are.”

“New York City trembled on the brink of disaster. Every locked warehouse was a nucleus of dissent, surrounded by crowds who were hungry and afraid and searching for someone to blame. Their anger incited them to riot, and the food riots turned to water riots and then to looting, wherever this was possible.”
Profile Image for Marvin.
1,414 reviews5,331 followers
July 8, 2012
First thing, Forget about the movie Soylent Green which was based on Harry Harrison's novel about overpopulation, Make Room! Make Room!. There is no Charleston Heston screaming , "Soylent Green is people!" and nothing about cannibalism. What we have instead is a very effective and disquieting look at a future where overpopulation is rampant and food and water sources are depleting. While he centers his story around a New York detective and a "accidental" murder, Harrison is more interested in depicting his character's more personal responsse to their environment. Sol (beautifully played by Edward G. Robinson in the movie and the best thing about the film) is most memorable with his ability to remember the past and his examination of where they went wrong. His soliloquy on birth control still rings true today. Yet all the novel's protagonists are nicely developed. Considering the topic, this is actually a fairly subtle novel and one of the best novels by veteran Sci-fi writer Harrison. Highly recommended with a strong four stars.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Paul Haspel.
563 reviews82 followers
December 13, 2022
“Soylent Green is – !” But I’m not going to *tell* you what Soylent Green is, dear reader – even though chances are you already know. What I am going to do, rather – with a copy before me of the original 1973 Soylent Green movie tie-in edition of Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! – is offer a meditation on how the novel and the film, taken together, offer intriguing variations on the premise of a police procedural set within a vastly overpopulated New York City of the near future. This year of 2022 – the year in which Soylent Green is set – seems a good time for reflections of this sort.

Outside the science-fiction community, author Harry Harrison might not be as well-known as other 20th-century science fiction writers – Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, Frank Herbert – but within the SF (*not* “sci-fi”) community, he was popular, and his work was well-loved. There are plenty of SF buffs of the present day who still turn with pleasure to Harrison’s “Stainless Steel Rat” series of picaresque semi-comic novels about a raffish thief and con artist who nonetheless wins the reader’s sympathy because of the way he lives by a discernible moral code. Outside the SF community, by contrast, Harrison is almost certainly best-known for Make Room! Make Room!, a work that may have had its inspiration in the then-widespread anxiety regarding overpopulation.

Make Room! Make Room! begins on August 9, 1999 – at which time, the author tells us, “there are – give or take a few thousand – thirty-five million people in the city of New York” (p. 6). It is understandable that Harrison might have been anxious about such a scenario unfolding; he had clearly done his homework, as a list of “Suggestions for Further Reading” at the book’s end lists no less than 39 books on the topic of overpopulation, including works by Bruno Bettelheim, Erich Fromm, John Kenneth Galbraith, Arthur Koestler, and Harrison Salisbury.

New York in the August 1999 of Make Room! Make Room! is a bleak place indeed. Overpopulation has caused the world’s food supply, and energy supply, to crash. Vast numbers of unemployed people crowd the streets. Parking-lots full of dead cars provide last-ditch housing for the city's many impoverished and jobless people; others simply sleep outdoors. In place of taxis, rickshaw-style “pedicabs” take the relatively fortunate from one place to another. And fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and particularly fresh meat are out-of-reach luxuries for all but the super-wealthy. The best that one can hope for – and just the rumor of this food’s availability is enough to start a riot at the local market – is a shipment of “soybean and lentil steaks” (p. 21) – soylent.

The novel’s protagonist is Detective Andy Rusch of New York’s 12-A Precinct, who is abruptly pulled off his already excessive caseload of unsolved crimes and sent to investigate the murder of one Michael O’Brien, at the upscale Chelsea Park North apartments on West 28th Street. O’Brien was one of those few fortunate wealthy who could live in relative comfort; in a nice touch, Harrison gives this apartment building “crenellated battlements and towers” (p. 51), and even a drawbridge, as if to emphasize how late 20th-century American society has reverted to a medieval state.

But O’Brien is dead, murdered with a tire iron; and because O’Brien was a mobster with ties to the power elite of New York, Rusch is put under considerable pressure to solve the case quickly. Other things that make this case different, for Rusch, include the novel experience of the air-conditioning system in O’Brien’s apartment – “cool air surged out, fresh on Andy’s face”, and “Every minute in the air-conditioned room made Andy feel better” (pp. 51, 53) – and the presence of O’Brien’s beautiful young mistress Shirl. Both Andy and Shirl are truly outsiders in O’Brien’s world, and soon they become lovers, sharing a stolen season in the brief time before O’Brien’s relatives are able to claim his apartment and possessions.

A person of interest in the O’Brien murder case is one Billy Chung, a young Taiwanese American whose history reflects more of the trauma that Harrison’s near-future New York City has endured. Billy and his family live in “Shiptown,” a harbor area of derelict ships whose cabins provide homes for thousands of Taiwanese refugees displaced from their island home when the Taiwanese government made an ill-advised decision to invade mainland China. Billy sometimes likes to dream that his derelict-ship home is an actual working ship, out somewhere on the high seas, with him as the ship’s captain, and the crew “down below on the decks doing all the things a good crew did while he guided the ship up here for all of them” (p. 100). But a series of bad choices that Billy makes in the course of his day-to-day attempts to scratch out a living make it seem increasingly likely that his path and that of detective Andy Rusch will one day intersect.

One of the most interesting features of Make Room! Make Room! – and something that I wish author Harrison had provided more of – is the way the novel provides occasional glimpses of the world beyond New York City. Once O’Brien’s apartment is closed off to Andy and Shirl, Shirl moves in with Andy and Andy’s roommate Sol – an older man who can provide testimony regarding the way the world was before the population crisis began. While Andy is off on his seemingly hopeless search for the perpetrator of the O’Brien murder, Sol tells Shirl why moving away from New York would not solve anyone’s problems:

“[T]here’s no place to go. This whole country is one big farm and one big appetite. There’s just as many people down South as there is up North and, since there is no public transportation, anyone who tried to walk to the land of sunshine would starve to death long before he got there. People stay put because the country is organized to take care of them where they are. They don’t eat well, but at least they eat. It needs a big catastrophe like the water failures in the California valleys to move people out, or the Dust Bowl – which I hear has now become international and crossed the Canadian border.” (p. 131)

When Shirl protests that things must be better in some other part of the world, Sol indicates that there is no hope to be found in the prospect of international relocation:

“All of England is just one big city and I saw on TV where the last Tory got shot defending the last grouse woods when they came to plow it up. Or you want to go to Russia maybe? Or China? They been having a border war for fifteen years now, which is one way of keeping the population down – but you’re draft age and they draft girls there, so you wouldn’t like that. Denmark, maybe. Life is great there if you can get in – at least they eat regular – but they got a concrete wall right across Jutland and beach guards who shoot on sight because so many starving people keep trying to break into the promised land.” (p. 131)

One of the striking features of Make Room! Make Room! is that, unlike other dystopias like 1984 or The Handmaid’s Tale, it is not a story of a government tyranny. A democratic form of government still seems to be in place – there is a “President’s Emergency Food Planning Board” (p. 143), and the Congress is debating population-control bills – but the population crisis has clearly moved beyond the government’s ability to deal with the problem in any meaningful way.

And it is here that one of the least desirable features of Make Room! Make Room! makes itself apparent, as Sol becomes, all too clearly, a mouthpiece for author Harrison’s strongly held feelings regarding the birth-control issue. To Andy, Sol angrily denounces the futility of the U.S. Senate’s attempts to pass an emergency bill, when, as he sees it, the real issue is “Birth control, that’s what. They are finally getting around to legalizing clinics that will be open to anyone – married or not – and making it a law that all mothers must be supplied with birth-control information. Boy, are we going to hear some howling when the bluenoses find out about that!” (p. 155)

In a later conversation with Shirl (whose attitude toward birth control reflects her Catholic upbringing), character Sol becomes even more transparently a mouthpiece for novelist Harrison’s feelings regarding the birth-control issue, while Shirl becomes little more than a straw woman whose objections Sol systematically demolishes. When Shirl refers to the proposed Emergency Bill as a “Baby-Killer Bill,” Sol insists that “You know well enough that birth control has nothing to do with killing babies. In fact, it saves them. Which is the bigger crime – letting kids die of disease and starvation, or seeing that the unwanted ones don’t get born in the first place?” (p. 159)

And when Shirl tries to suggest that birth control is somehow a violation of natural law, Sol sarcastically replies that “Darling, the history of medicine is the history of the violation of natural law. The Church – and that includes the Protestant as well as the Catholic – tried to stop the use of anesthetics because it was ‘natural law’ for a woman to have pain while giving birth. And it was natural law for people to die of sickness. And natural law that the body not be opened and repaired. There was even a guy named Bruno [Italian scientist Giordano Bruno] that got burned at the stake because he didn’t believe in absolute truth and natural laws like these. Everything was against natural law once, and now birth control has got to join the rest” (pp. 159-60).

Sol's frustration with resistance to birth control -- and, perhaps, author Harrison's -- may reflect the fact that, just one year before the publication of Make Room! Make Room!, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled, in Griswold vs. Connecticut (1965), that the state of Connecticut could no longer criminalize birth control for married couples.

Think about that for a moment. An important state of the American Union -- today, one of the most progressive and affluent states of the U.S.A. -- had gone to the highest court in the land to defend its "right" to declare that a husband and wife could not decide for themselves how many children they wanted to have. A married couple, under the laws that prevailed in Connecticut (the "Constitution State"!) before 1965, could not have sex without facing the possibility of a pregnancy, and could not use birth control without having to worry about a bedroom raid by Hartford or New Haven police officers. With such outdated laws, and such medieval thinking, at work in American life, at a time when the United States of America was reaching for the stars (or at least the moon), it's no wonder if author Harrison was angry regarding the birth-control issue.

Perhaps because some of Sol’s reflections might seem anti-Catholic, as when he says that “I suppose we can mostly blame the Catholics” for the problems of overpopulation in his world, and insists that the Catholic Church should “accept the thing [meaning the necessity of birth control] and give the suffering human race a break” (p. 175), Harrison makes a point of giving his novel a sympathetically rendered, religiously devout character. Named (appropriately) Peter, this character tries to reconcile his religious beliefs with the brutal realities of the world he sees around him.

Encountering Detective Andy Rusch in Times Square as New York City prepares to celebrate the transition from 1999 over to 2000 (and you thought the Y2K computer problems were a bother), Peter quotes the well-known passages from Revelation about an end to death and sorrow and tears, about Jesus Christ making all things new. A tired and embittered Andy tells Peter that nothing has changed; the millennium has not come yet.

“Nothing changed?” Peter shouted. “It is Armageddon, it must be.” Terrified, he pulled his arm from Andy’s grip and started away, and then turned back when he had only gone a pace.

“It must end,” he called in a tortured voice. “Can this world go on for another thousand years, like this? LIKE THIS?” Then people came between them and he was gone.
(p. 200)

Detective Andy Rusch has no answer to Peter’s expression of anguish. Neither, the reader senses, does novelist Harry Harrison.

Watching Soylent Green after reading Make Room! Make Room!, I found that both works have their merits. It is not, for me, a matter of one being better than the other; it is more like a case of comparably interesting variations on a theme. Indeed, in some ways Soylent Green has a plotline whose elements are more tightly interwoven than is the case in Harrison’s novel.

In Richard Fleischer’s 1973 film, the detective protagonist is not named Rusch, but rather Thorn. As in the novel, the detective protagonist has a roommate named Sol; but now, Solomon Roth is a “book,” a college professor turned research assistant whose job is to gather evidence for Thorn’s investigations. The murder victim this time is named Simonson, and his murder is deliberate, not random; it turns out that he is an executive for the Soylent corporation that provides the movie’s overpopulated society with “Soylent Green” crackers that are supposedly made from plankton gathered from the world’s oceans. Shirl is in the movie, too, but now she is called “furniture”; beautiful women are provided as living accessories to luxury apartments for ultra-wealthy men.

The dehumanizing references to intellectuals as “books,” and to women as “furniture,” are reinforced by the methods of crowd control dramatized in the film. In Harrison's novel, the regular food riots by starving and infuriated New Yorkers are controlled by self-activating barbed wire that is dropped from helicopters; in Fleischer's film, riot control is administered by "scoops" -- dump trucks with bulldozer-style blades that scoop up rioters and dump them into the truck bed, as if these hungry people were dirt or debris or garbage. These instances of dehumanization foreshadow the movie’s “big reveal” regarding the actual source of Soylent Green – a powerful metaphor for a society that is devouring itself. At a 50-year remove from the release of the film, it is easy to forget how troubling the movie’s surprise ending was for viewers of the time.

Today, the world population is actually larger than what novelist Harrison anticipated; according to the United Nations, the population surpassed 8 billion in November of this year. But the nightmare scenario of Make Room! Make Room! and Soylent Green has not become a reality – yet.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,109 followers
October 1, 2018
Oddly enough, I kinda expected something hokey before I read this, but instead, I just got a dystopian nightmare of overpopulation.

This isn't unexpected or a bad thing. After all, I've seen Soylent Green and felt the huge impact of the scene where the old man Saul mouths the BIG SECRET through the plane of glass. I remember the riots, the pressure, the senseless violence, and the massive levels of injustice AND stupidity that brought us to this state.

And yet, after reading this novel, that sense is more visceral, more realistic, and a lot less sensational. Yes, there's massive injustice. Just look at the Squatter law that gives priority to squalid massive families regardless of any consideration, or the way no detective is able to do his job because life is already worthless.

For '66, this nightmare world that has used up all resources by 1999 and has ignored or actively fought all birth control or warnings, has resorted to sticking its head in the sand.

Sound familiar?

Well, fortunately, our modern world is getting well-adjusted to living with less... and less... and some technologies are letting us live with a bit less squalor than predicted in this novel... and a New York City of 35 million in the novel is pretty damn close to what some cities are reaching now, true, but the quality of life is NOT as bad as predicted in Harrison's novel.

Of course, in some ways, the violence, the poverty, and the cultural clamp-downs are WORSE in our world. It's odd to see our 7.7 billion people displayed against the novel's measly 7.0 billion. And yet... it's interesting because most of the world is a dustbowl and the only place to safely live .. on the dole .. is the big cities, so everyone migrates there.

I'm just saying this is a really fascinating world-building exercise. I love books that predict or fail to predict in really big ways. :)

Does anyone want any meat flakes? It's just snails... right? Yum, yum.

Profile Image for Debbie Zapata.
1,833 reviews44 followers
February 5, 2016
Of course I remember the movie Soylent Green. I saw it at the drive-in gazillions of years ago, and many times since. But let me tell you, as dramatic as the movie is, with Charlton Heston as main character Andy Rusch giving the infamous scream of there is actually no soylent green in the book at all. There are red crackers, seaweed crackers, brown soylent (soy/lentil) steaks and eventually small soylent burgers supposedly with a smoky-barbecue flavor. So there is no eating of here. There is not much eating of anything, because there is simply not much food. Or water. Or electricity. Or personal space. And this makes the book feel much more terrifying, because it is easier to imagine our world becoming exactly like Harrison's New York City.

Written in 1966, the story takes place during the last six months of 1999. Okay, we do all know that the world survived the big leap from the year 1999 to the year 2000. But Harrison's dedication shows us what he was concerned about at the time he wrote this book. To Todd and Moria ~~ For your sakes, children, I hope this proves to be a work of fiction.

There are 35 million people in New York City. Andy Rusch is one of them. He is a detective on the police force, sharing living space with an old man named Solomon Kahn. Andy is assigned to investigate a homicide, and at first it seems to be cut and dried, another case to be dealt with as quickly as possible and forgotten. But due to a bit of paranoia and misinterpretation on the part of certain people in control of things behind the scenes, pressure is put on the police force to find the killer, not simply to mark the case closed without a proper investigation. In the process of his more thorough detective work, Andy gets to know the victim's girlfriend Shirl, who becomes very important in his own life. The reader spends time with the killer, we even see him commit the crime, but does Andy ever catch him?

But the police procedure is only a tiny part of the story. The main theme is the lack of everything that makes a city a decent place to live. Water and food rations are small and often cut. Electricity is iffy, there are no cars on the streets, but they do fill once-vacant lots where homeless people crowd into their abandoned bodies for shelter. Of course some people do manage to live in air-conditioned luxury, and even buy beef from the meatleggers. There are always people who can get you things for the right price and others who have that price. Overall the feel of the book is grimy, hot, sticky,
hopeless, and extremely crowded.

Solomon spends time in the second part of the book talking about why the country has turned out the way it has, and his words feel like something we could be hearing today. Or perhaps should be hearing today. As I said earlier, it is very easy to imagine our world becoming Andy's world. A few natural disasters, a little more climate change, one or two dozen more crooked politicians, lots and lots of more people and there we are.

I agree with Harrison's wish in his dedication. However, it does seem that we are well on the way to making this statement by Solomon a reality:
One time we had the whole world in our hands, but we ate it and burned it and it's gone now.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
April 2, 2012
Good morning class! Now, hands up everyone who knows what Soylent Green is made of. Ah, that's very good. I'm glad to see you read your assignment.

I'm sorry, we're not quite finished yet. What is the book's original title? No, of course it isn't a trick question. You should have read it a little more carefully...
Profile Image for Becky.
1,384 reviews1,650 followers
February 19, 2018
Sigh... Where to begin? This is my second, and probably last Harry Harrison novel. I know that he's considered one of the best science fiction writers of his time, and I can't disagree... But it's not his time anymore, and in my opinion, his writing just doesn't stand the test of time. He shouldn't feel too offended though, this opinion applies to quite a few writers whose work shows its age, and not in a George Clooney "Gets Better With" kind of way.

The ideas and concepts I can appreciate. The overcrowding, the overpopulation, the over-consumption and the warnings to future us to not let it happen that way... This stuff I can appreciate. My favorite parts of the book were Sol's railing against the anti-birth control agenda, and Peter the homeless preacher's despair at it NOT being the end of the world when the clock strikes midnight on Jan 1, 2000. "A thousand more years of THIS??"

These bits were the most real and tangible and human parts of the book for me. The rest was just set dressing... Or outdated attitudes that irritated me more and more as the book went on.

Sexism and misogyny, racism, classism... I have a hard time ignoring these things just because the book is 50 years old and things were different then. My thinking is, if Harrison was so ahead of his time thinking about overpopulation and a woman's right to choose whether to have kids or not, then he should also... I dunno, not objectify and make it out that their only value lies between their legs. Woman after woman was described as greedy, hard, cold, and bitchy... And also, coincidentally, usually overweight and lazy, too. Except Shirl, who was exceptionally beautiful... And who sells herself because that's what beautiful girls do in a hard world. There is apparently no other work or options. Fuck for money and place and privilege, or barely subsist on rations and "love". Maybe if her ass got a job and didn't sit at home like a suburban housewife, they might've had an easier time of life, and she wouldn't have been so resentful of Andy being gone 20 hours a day DOING HIS JOB. Ugh.

I just expect a bit more from someone who seems to think, in both of the books I've read of Harrison's, that women are capable and equal to men, but in every action writes them the exact opposite way. It bugs me.

And let's not even start the rant on how Asians were depicted. FML. "Chink" this and "chink" that. SERIOUSLY. I can't get down with that shit.

I seriously never thought I'd ever say that my favorite parts of a book would be the PREACHY bits. Wow.

Anyway. So. Everyone sign up for the Voluntary Human Extinction Project... Or more realistically... Lobby your representatives for better birth control options - and NOT just for women - and safe abortion facilities, because, last I checked, it is still legal in the US, though some would rather unwanted babies be born to families that can't support them. Because that makes sense. Grrr...

Plan your families... We have the technology. Or we overpopulate and consume even more than we do now, and everyone in our children's or grandchildren's future suffers.

That is all.
Profile Image for Kämen.
136 reviews4 followers
August 16, 2022
The Trust the ScienceTM has made everyone live longer, eliminated diseases and cut child mortality but now the planet has gone to shit and who's to blame, none other than those damn Catholics and their disapproval of cheap, safe&effectiveTM contraception.
It's not a good detective novel, or a science fiction novel, or even a dystopia novel. Just environmentalist antinatalist crap and worst thing, Soylent Green isn't even made out of people.
Profile Image for Alexander Peterhans.
Author 2 books196 followers
September 11, 2021
"The coal that was supposed to last for centuries has all been dug up because so many people wanted to keep warm. And the oil too, there’s so little left that they can’t afford to burn it, it’s got to be turned into chemicals and plastics and stuff. And the rivers – who polluted them? The water – who drank it? The topsoil – who wore it out? Everything has been gobbled up, used up, worn out. What we got left – our one natural resource? Old-car lots, that’s what. Everything else has been used up and all we got to show for it is a couple of billion old cars that are rusting away. One time we had the whole world in our hands, but we ate it and burned it and it’s gone now."

No thrilling cyberpunk future, here. Just 35 million people piled up on top of eachother in New York City.

The book doesn't have much of a plot, and is more of an overview of a world rife with overpopulation and near complete exhaustion of natural resources, following a couple of characters in the year 1999, ending with the New Year of 2000.

The worldbuilding is strong and imaginative, with a strong environmental message, which some will probably find preachy - personally, seeing how awfully we're handling the climate crisis at the moment, we can do with a lot more preaching.

Also interesting, the movie is only tangentially related to the book - the movie has an actual plot, although the whole soylent green revelation is completely absent from the book.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Denis.
Author 1 book21 followers
October 12, 2020
Having seen the movie Soylent Green at the age of ten or so, back in the seventies, and learned this was the book that inspired it, I immediately tagged it a "Must Get To." I came across a nice hard cover 20 or so years back and let it wait its turn.

I expected it to be different from the film and was pleased of how so. I have found all of Harry Harrison's writing to be above average (from what I have read thus far - not that much actually, only a couple Stainless Steel Rat books, some from the Deathworld series and maybe some other thing or two - it’s been a while), and his strength is especially high with humour. This 1966 novel set in 1999 has some of that but is definitely not a humorous or a typical Harrison novel. It is anything but uplifting and deals with serious issues from the viewpoint of the mid-sixties. Some of this is a bit dated (I won't list my objections - but they are reflective of the time it was written) but much of it is very relevant and was prophetic of our current time. The main issue was over population, which seems less of a concern today than it was fifty years ago, but he nailed the over exploitation and consumption of resources and the stress on the planet’s environment: air, land and sea, in spite of multiple warnings from experts. All this infused into a fast paced detective story.

I would easily list it as one of the decade’s best.
Profile Image for Anissa.
881 reviews264 followers
June 13, 2020
Soylent Green was a favourite film with my father's side of the family. Often referenced and spoken about yet, it wasn't until I was a grown woman that I finally saw it (because my husband was appalled that my 70's film viewing had been so lacking; he considers it to have been a fantastic decade for film). Anyway, upon viewing Soylent Green, I had to concur that it was a great story. So as I am wont to do, I sought out and bought the book. Then it sat in my TBR pile for the last five years waiting to be read. I was in no rush because I already knew the gist of the story. But the joke was on me, you see,

I'm glad I finally read this. What I enjoyed, I really enjoyed.

Favourite quotes :

"You’ve got night sticks and you have gas, use them when you have to. You’ve got guns and they’re best left in their holsters. We don’t want indiscriminate killing, that only makes things worse.”

"But doing something means that people must change, make an effort, use their minds, which is what most people do not like to do."

"I blame the stinking politicians and so-called public leaders who have avoided the issue and covered it up because it was controversial and what the hell, it will be years before it matters and I’m going to get mine now."
Profile Image for Ajeje Brazov.
729 reviews
July 29, 2023
Tempo fa vidi un film intitolato 2022: i sopravvissuti. Un film molto particolare, dove il problema della sovrappopolazione veniva affrontato in modo a dir poco apocalittico e devastante. Così m'informai e scoprii che era stato tratto da un libro, appunto "Largo! Largo!". Fortunatamente lo trovai in una libreria dell'usato a poco, oggi è praticamente introvabile.
La sovrappopolazione è una problematica molto sentita oggi nel 2023, negli anni '60 del secolo scorso, periodo in cui è stato scritto il romanzo, era solo una prospettiva di disastro, che poi è effettivamente accaduta, anzi anche peggiore del previsto. Il problema non è soltanto numerico, certo più persone ci sono e più risorse sono necessarie al loro sostentamento, ma l'ago della bilancia è che siamo in tanti e troppo ingombranti, consumiamo troppo e creiamo tanti di quei rifiuti che solo a pensarci, seriamente, dovrebbe farci accapponare la pelle. Per esempio: circa il 30% del cibo che portiamo sulle nostre tavole va a finire nel bidone della spazzatura, fatto che dovrebbe indignarci, ma facciamo finta di niente, perchè la problematica ancora non ci tange più di tanto; un altro esempio sono i rifiuti tossici che spargiamo nell'aria e nella terra. Proviamo a metterci lì in totale silenzio, cerchiamo di isolarci dalla cacofonia urbana e di riflettere su questo assunto... nessun essere vivente farebbe mai del male a se stesso, perchè immettere gas tossici o stivare rifiuti radioattivi o quant'altro nella terra, vuol dire ammazzarsi con le proprie mani. Invece niente, sì magari c'indignamo per quei 10 minuti di telegiornale, ma poi cambiamo canale su qualcosa di più leggero per non deprimerci troppo, poveri cristi che lavoriamo tutto il tempo, abbiamo bisogno di leggerezza e divertimento, no? Eccheccaz...!
Ormai siamo troppi, questo è assodato, 8 miliardi: c'è sempre una parte che vive sotto la soglia della sopravvivenza, sempre circa 30.000 persone, perlopiù bambini, muoiono di fame, sete e stenti, poi circa 1 miliardo che vive di malnutrizione, malattie ecc... poi ci sono i "paperoni", immancabili, altrimenti che società capitalistica sarebbe? Sono sempre meno e sempre più ricchi e potenti. Infine c'è la mediocrità, cioè quelli che stanno in mezzo, la maggior parte della popolazione, vedono morire migliaia di persone così, ma girano la testa dall'altra parte e poi guardano con gli occhi lucidi, dal basso verso l'alto, i "paperoni", quanto vorrebbero essere al loro posto, caz...!!

Il romanzo è un poliziesco, ma è solo di facciata, perchè il vero obiettivo dell'autore, almeno da come l'ho interpretato io, è far riflettere sulla problematica ambientale che stiamo vivendo noi ora nel 2023 e che al periodo della stesura, era in divenire o comunque agli albori.
Da recuperare sia il libro che il film, perchè si completano, creando una serie infinita di quesiti esistenziali, sociali e politici!
Profile Image for Toby.
836 reviews332 followers
October 29, 2012
A fine piece of science fiction that grabs you from the start with it's world building and high quality writing and entertains for over 200 pages.

Soylent Green might have been people but Make Room! Make Room! is a story about a detective investigating a murder in a future world with a drastic problem with over-population and a lack of natural resources. The detective aspect works as an interesting framing story that allows Harrison to explore the nuances of his world - food riots, vegan diets, welfare state, birth control, physical defects - without the use of mass amounts of exposition or the dreaded info dump. And yet he manages to write real and fully developed characters who interact with this future in their own unique and subtle ways.

Despite being written in 1966 and set in 1999 the entire concept is still incredibly believable and some of the political messages made in the novel still haven't been tackled by our leaders and politicians. This must sit alongside The Death of Grass as one of the most intelligent responses in the science fiction canon to the ecological disaster that threatens our race and planet and best of all it doesn't have its own political agenda offering absurd L.Ron Hubbard like theories as the saviour of civilisation.

I know Harry Harrison from his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, The Galactic Hero books which seem to specialise in being a bit silly, but this works brings a whole new level of respect to his work. There are aspects of this book that have clearly influenced a lot of writers that came after him, Neal Stephenson builds a similar shiptown in Snow Crash for example and even describes it in much the same way. Yet still I can't bring myself to give it 5 stars. Don't let that dissuade you, this is one that you should definitely not miss if you're a fan of intelligent science fiction.
Profile Image for Robert.
817 reviews44 followers
September 4, 2013
It's the future - 1999 in fact! Over 7 billion humans, 35 million of them in New York City where a cop, a gangster's moll and a street kid all collide on their no longer separate searches for food and water security. Shanties, tent cities, people living in ships and cars that can't move because there's no more oil. Sounds like Harrison only got the date wrong...

It's an odd book tackling the question of over-population back in the 1960s when it seems to have first been taken seriously (though not by policy makers, plainly). The story is told quite seriously which may come as a surprise to folks familiar with Harrison's OTT spoof/satires starring the Stainless Steel Rat and the points are made deftly - except towards the end when one of the characters turns into a talking head and starts handing out lectures about contraception, Catholicism and politics. This spoiled matters somewhat by being too overt and heavy handed. It's also a bit of a shame that the only pleasant female character is the most minor one.

I can't help contrasting this book with A Torrent of Faces in which a future population of 1 Trillion people is postulated. Rather than a dystopian New York there's a world city and no apparent mineral resource problem. Less realistic but more fun...
Profile Image for Nancy.
184 reviews92 followers
October 2, 2019
Maybe I am being unfair by rating this book 3 stars. It is difficult to read this book and to not think about the movie the whole time. The two are completely different. The bare bones of the plot is similar but that is about it. . Which might make you think the movie is better than the book. If you can forget about the movie and you like dystopian futures with populations run amok and scarce resources then this is definitely a book you should read.
Profile Image for Jason.
123 reviews41 followers
November 24, 2013
Make Room! Make Room! was the basis for the classic sci-fi flick Soylent Green. Of course, the scene that everyone remembers from the film - Charleston Heston yelling, "Soylent Green is people!" at the end - never appears in the book. Sorry, kids, no cannibalism in this rather slow read from the 1960s, but lots of commentary on the dangers of overpopulation.

It's actually a fairly depressing story about environmental collapse: the food is pretty much gone and it's hot all the time due to global warming (yep, we knew that was coming way back in the '60s. Good thing we got right on it and solved the problem before... oh, wait. Actually, we've done nothing). The situation for everyone is made worse by good old gridlock in Congress. That's actually one of the most darkly comic scenes in the novel: with overpopulation literally crushing the life out of the planet, Congress argues over the "morality" of allowing women to use birth control. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad and true to life.

It's not exactly a page turner and there is little if any redemption for any of the characters involved, but it is an interesting relic from the not-so-old days of old, one that reminds us that there really is nothing new under the sun.
Profile Image for Stephen Robert Collins.
582 reviews51 followers
March 14, 2018
This was made in to Solvent Green with very odd cast of Charlton Heston & Edward G Robinson who was famous for playing gangsters it was his last movie & he was very ill when it was made.
My late mother hated this as was about suicide clinks for old people. She said was in very bad taste.
The book & the movie are different Harry Harrison famous for his Stainless Steel rat books often did comical books or even black comedy but the move was not comical I found it bit of sour taste special if you know what Green was? Hahaha
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,938 reviews751 followers
April 24, 2013
Considering that this classic novel of sci-fi was written in the 1960s, it's still quite a grabber and definitely worth reading. You're welcome to stay here for the short version or click here for the longer one.

The setting for Make Room! Make Room! is New York City, 1999, well beyond teeming with a population of 35 million people. Food is a precious commodity and water is rationed,except for the rich who have speakeasy-like secret meat markets for their shopping pleasures and can enjoy long showers in their guarded apartments.

One of the defenders of the people in this overpopulated New York City filled with desperate people is Andy Rusch who lives in a room next to Sol, an elderly man who fills Andy's head with his old stories & opinions. Andy is currently tasked with finding Billy Chung, the murderer of a wealthy criminal named Michael O'Brien, who most of the policemen are glad to see gone. Andy wonders why this guy's death is such a big deal. All he knows is that the word has come down from the politicians that he's to give the case top priority. Overworked, tired, with a little extra food ration for being a cop, he starts his investigation and meets Shirl Greene, girlfriend/mistress to the dead guy, who is about to be tossed out into the streets; Billy Chung manages to find a way to disappear, holing up with a former priest who is waiting for the turn of the millennium, for the new heaven and new earth. Each character represents a different segment of the population; the murder plot is the frame for the real point of this book, which examines the hell of "an overpopulated future," as well as how things got to this state.

While some reviewers say that the themes in this novel aren't relevant in today's world, I say a) read it again...you'll find plenty of issues that resonate today, and b) that it is an intriguing look at the looming issues of its time: overpopulation and the failure of the earth to sustain an out-of-control population was a real concern back then. Another prevalent criticism of this book was that it was nothing like the movie Soylent Green -- and failed to mention the secret behind the food. Really? Seriously? This book didn't even go down that path, so why on earth criticize it for something that Hollywood made up after the fact? Even Harrison, as his LA Times obituary notes, thought the film only occasionally "bore a faint resemblance to the book."

While Harrison's doom-and-gloom scenario of 35 million people in New York City never came to pass, the book shouldn't just be one you turn your nose up at. According to the author's obituary, Tom Doherty, founder of Tor Books, noted that Harrison saw science fiction as a medium that "caused people to think about our world and what it could become.” That's one major reason I read sci-fi, although I have to admit I'm partial to older novels like this one. I liked it, and while maybe it's not the best sf novel I've ever read, it's definitely one I won't forget.
Profile Image for Jim Dooley.
811 reviews41 followers
June 16, 2023
MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! was the source material for the movie, "Soylent Green." But, just like DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? being the source material for the movie, "Blade Runner," there are major differences. The most major of all is that the Big Reveal in "Soylent Green" is not present in MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! (Here, Soylent Green is a very expensive steak substitute made from soybeans, lentils, and seaweed.)

In this book, the writer is "sounding the alarm" about population growth, and there is a fair amount of preaching in the subtext. That doesn't make the book bad at all. It is just that while the movie's narrative focus is on the police investigation that uncovers something much bigger than expected, the narrative focus here is on just how dismal an overly-populated world can be. Indeed, the glimmers of happiness are always quickly submerged by an unremitting sense of gloom.

Set in the "far future" of 1999, MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! reveals a New York City that is awash in food shortages, sharply reduced human services, laws that center more on survival than they do on quality of life, and a seriously out-of-hand crime rate with the vast majority of violent crimes only being solved if the culprit is readily apparent and easy to find. Street protests are unending and often turn violent, and the normally reticent group of the Elderly are the most vocal and disruptive of all. The struggle to live is so all-consuming that the emotions and virtues that go into caring for one another are beaten down when they are found. Frankly, having previously read (and being impressed by) DR. ZHIVAGO, I was struck how that book's miseries were carried over into MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! They were multiplied, though.

This certainly wasn't a pleasant read, but it was a worthwhile one. The sense of desolation is so strong, though, that I would add a caution to avoid it if you are going through a hard time or frequently contend with bouts of melancholy. There is very little "escape" to be found within its pages.
Profile Image for Leo.
95 reviews8 followers
July 17, 2021
There is a listopia on Goodreads titled ‘The Movie was actually Better than the book’ and Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! is included. I must dissent. I felt the book was much superior to the film. I concede there were two very clever ideas incorporated into the movie which were not present in the novel (one was the famous revelation at the end). But Harrison’s novel did something the movie failed to do - it made me care. I cared about the main characters.
Profile Image for Ali Berk Çetinbudaklar.
129 reviews22 followers
March 2, 2015
Yıllar önce izlediğim Soylent Green'in, birebir uyarlandığı kitap olarak düşünüyordum, ama baya farklılık varmış; hele ki filmi özellikle vurucu yapan kısma acaba ne zaman geleceğim diye beklerken, kitabın bitişiyle öyle bir kısmın olmadığını anladım. Çoğu kişi belki de bu yüzden "uyarlandığı kitaptan daha iyi olan filmler" listesine ekleyecektir S.G.'yi.
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,992 reviews899 followers
December 19, 2018
7/10. Media de los 17 libros que he leído del autor : 7/10.

A Harrison le recuerdo sobre todo por su serie paródica de los héroes de la CF : "Bill, héroe galáctico". Que tiene ottras novelas que me han gustado más, pero esas novelas gamberras me resultaron muy divertidas. Burdas si se quiere, pero divertidas.

Y este libro pues se deja leer. (O se dejó allá por mi juventud en los 90)
Profile Image for Deborah Ideiosepius.
1,677 reviews132 followers
June 18, 2023
This classic science fiction book from 1966 is one I read in the 80's but never managed to track down and re-read since. It got made into a rather notorious movie called Soylent Green, which has only the loosest possible relationship to the novel. I mean it, everything you think you know about the book, based on the movie, probably is not so.

The book was set in the far future of 1999 and the central theme was a dire warning of where overpopulation, environmental degradation and resources hoarding could take society. In the forward the author dedicated the book to his children and hopes that it is only fiction.

The world building is outright amazing. The book has a few central characters each gives us a different aspect of the world, the main one is a Manhattan police detective, Andy Rusch. As an employed higher grade citizen we would expect him to be comfortably well off, but the living conditions of squalor, lack of electricity and running water, rare and poor food - all these show us vividly how bad conditions in America really are. Next we have Shirl, who is the trophy girl friend of a wealthy (though obviously criminal) man, this shows us how the other half lives and it is in many ways a creepy contrast which I will not describe; this is a great book, everyone should read it for themselves.

Andy and Shirl meet while he is investigating a murder - which takes us to another world view, that of an almost-street kid. Billy is the son of refugees who escaped Taiwan after a coup, all of them living on rusting boats in the river (Hudson? Maybe, my American geography is pretty poor). There are other world views as well, Sol Khan, who is seventy and old enough to remember the taste of coffee, is a particularly beautifully written character.

And, that, really is the essence of this excellent book; the beautiful writing the flawless characterisations and the novels meticulous world building. Even all those decades when I could barely remember the plot, I could still remember how lovely the writing was and how smooth the reading experience. It should be a really well known classic! I really don't know why other, more poorly written books of it's era ARE and this one is virtually forgotten.

So the world building and it's predictions are key to how amazing this novel is. In the Afterword to my 2008 edition, the author examines how it has stood the test of time, how accurate his predictions. They were pretty poor (thank goodness) in many regards. The overpopulation - I will not say that it's existence was wrong, but the cause was. In the book contraception was still illegal in 1999. Just imagine where USA would be if that HAD been the case?

The complete depletion of resources was also an over prediction, but no matter how many agencies fight it, it is still slowly but surely going ahead. The decimation of all nature reserves in the UK has not happened, but they are shrinking. They are shrinking worse here in Australia where the dustbowl predicted for the USA is well on it's way.

Harrison did not accurately predict technology levels for the 1999-2000 era but he did predict the nutcases advertising the end of the world and the coming of some weird Christian Armageddon - remember those? They made 1999 quite colourful.

Another glaring absence is plastic. Plastic in the ocean is my bugbear; it happened fast and is now overwhelming almost all marine ecologies. Harrison did not predict it, but how could any sensible person in the 60's have done so? He did actually accurately predict massive heatwaves and weather issues though his attribution was not to climate change (which is the likeliest cause of our world wide climate woes) but a major plot setting of this novel is an unheard of heat wave in New York.

While written in 1966 it has only really dated significantly in one way, and that is, written as a future story it still has a 'feel' of the era in which it was written. There is almost a social nostalgia feeling to it, in the way that many classic novels have. There are no grating elements however as can happen with books from the 60's - this one socially transcends it's era of writing.

Thinking it over, the only real reason I can imagine for this novel not having the acclaim it deserves, is the ending.

The ending is dark.

Where other dire sci-fi, prediction books of this era may have ended up with the hero walking off into the horizon to who-knows-where, or the heroine escaping the abusive society which has imprisoned her, that was not where Make Room! Make Room! ended. Instead the ending is wretched, with little hope or future for change. It is a depressing ending and I was depressed reading it. I could not go straight on to another book! I needed time to metabolise the story. But, given the topic, perhaps that is what the story needs? If we cause the breaking point of our world there will not be any hope beyond that horizon and the unnerving ending is probably more suited to the story than an uplifting one would have been.

Still a great book! Even better than I remembered it.
Profile Image for Julieta Steyr.
Author 13 books20 followers
May 30, 2021
Este libro es una buena idea desperdiciada.
El concepto en sí de la sobrepoblación está perfecto, sufrirán hambrunas si la cantidad de personas continúa incrementándose, habrá escasez de atención santaria, la policía apenas podrá contener... todo muy lindo pero es limitado. Sacó un par de números puros y de ahí tiró la idea, que sería como tener un salario en bruto mientras cree que se cobrará el salario en su totalidad y no pensar en el salario neto; lo mismo si pensara que un mueble se arruinará sin tener en cuenta que se puede comprar uno nuevo. Error en la lógica.
Claro, la población creció, es sólo que no tuvo en cuenta que la tecnología también mejoraría por lo que hoy en día un campo es mucho más productivo que hace años ya sea por su equipamiento, ya sea por los productos que mejoran las cosechas. Incluso, tuvo en cuenta el mejoramiento del servicio de salud pero no en cualquier otra cosa.
En cuanto a la trama, empieza detectivesca. El asesinato de un hombre al que no querían demasiado, con Andy como detective y el joven Billy Chung. De ahí, la trama pasa más a ser un romance para convertirse en el diario de queja tras queja de Andy, un pesimista insufrible (un poco de pesimismo era entendible, lo de Andy es para alterar los nervios del lector).
La historia de Chung intenta ser algo a lo que no llega y queda como relleno absurdo, con un final digno de una mala telenovela. Mismo final obtiene Shirl, la única chica en el relato que pasa de ser una mujer cariñosa y absolutamente abnegada, de esas con las que habrá soñado el autor, a estar harta de Andy. Y sí. Mike tiene un poquito mejor fin y Andy... no sé si obtiene lo que merece ese personaje que con las páginas se transformó en patético pero el final, como conclusión a la teoría esta no demasiado pensada, es insípido.
Hasta la mitad del libro iba más o menos bien, pasado eso Harrison intenta cerrar por la fuerza la gran cantidad de argumentos que generó por su cuenta obteniendo un resultado es mediocre.
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