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This Perfect Day by Ira Levin
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This Perfect Day (original 1970; edition 1970)

by Ira Levin, Gene Szafran (Illustrator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8832410,031 (3.9)1 / 37
Member:sturlington
Title:This Perfect Day
Authors:Ira Levin
Other authors:Gene Szafran (Illustrator)
Info:Open Road Integrated Media (2011), E-book
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:SF, Kindle ebook, dystopia, novel, read in 2012

Work details

This Perfect Day by Ira Levin (1970)

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English (22)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Ok, first, I wasn't sure I even wanted to read this. I read reviews, and my husband read it, and so I finally decided to. I'm glad I did, and would give it 3.5 stars if we had 1/2 stars. Second, to people who judged the whole book based on how well they could stomach the rape scene, well, they weren't reading it carefully in full context. I'd say more but it'd be a spoiler. I do recommend the book for anyone who is interested in sf issues like dystopia, cloning, the-good-of-the-many.... ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
The story is set in a seemingly perfect global society whose genesis remains vague. "Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei led us to this perfect day" is what school children learn to chant.

Uniformity is the defining feature; there is only one language and all ethnic groups have been eugenically merged into one race called "The Family". There are only four personal names for men, and four corresponding names for women. Instead of surnames, individuals are distinguished by a nine-character alphanumeric code, their nameber. Everyone eats "totalcakes", drinks "cokes", wears exactly the same thing and is satisfied - every day.

The world is ruled by a central computer called UniComp which has been programmed to keep every single human on the surface of the earth in check. People are continually drugged by means of regular injections so that they can never realize their potential as humans, but will remain satisfied and cooperative "Family members". They are told where to live, when to eat, whom to marry, when to reproduce, and which job they will be trained for. Everyone is assigned a counselor who acts somewhat like a mentor, confessor, and parole agent; violations against 'brothers' and 'sisters' by themselves and others are expected to be reported at a weekly confession.

Everyone wears a permanent identifying bracelet which interfaces with access points that act as scanners which tell the "Family members" where they are allowed to go and what they are allowed to do. At the age of 62, every person dies, presumably from an overdose of the treatment liquids; almost anything in them is poisonous if an excess dose is given. Now and then, someone dies at 61 or 63, so no one is too suspicious of the regularity. Even opposition against such a life by those few who happen to be resistant to the drugs, or those who purposely change their behavior to avoid strong doses of some of the drugs in the monthly treatment, and who consequently wake up to a day which for them turns out to be anything but perfect, is dealt with by the programmers of UniComp. These long-lived men and women, in their underground hideaway, constitute the real, albeit invisible, world government. They live in absolute luxury and choose their own members through a form of meritocracy. In part, people who choose, through evasion and modifying their own behavior, to leave the main Family are subtly re-directed to "nature preserves" of imperfect life on islands. These, however, have been put in place by the programmers as a place to isolate trouble-making Family members. The top minds among the outcasts are further manipulated into joining the programmers to help them maintain the equilibrium in the "perfect" world of UniComp and The Family.

Even the basic facts of nature are subject to the programmers' will - men do not grow facial hair, women do not develop breasts, and it only rains at night. Dampers even control the movment of tectonic plaques. Reference is made in the story to permanent settlements on Mars and even to interstellar space exploration; these outposts have their own equivalents of UniComp.

The full rhyme, sung by children bouncing a ball (similar to a Clapping game):

Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei,
Led us to this perfect day.
Marx, Wood, Wei and Christ,
All but Wei were sacrificed.
Wood, Wei, Christ and Marx,
Gave us lovely schools and parks.
Wei, Christ, Marx and Wood,
Made us humble, made us good.
Wei Li Chun is the name of the person who started the Unification, and, unbeknownst to all but the programmers and their attendants, remains alive as the head of the programmers, extending his lifespan by having his head transplanted onto successive youthful bodies. Bob Wood is mentioned throughout the novel, but never explained in detail. A painting is mentioned depicting Wood presenting the Unification Treaty—he may be a political leader executing the ideas of Wei. In one conversation in which the protagonist discusses his discovery that people once had varying lifespans, one character comments that controlling people's lifespans is the ultimate realization of the thinking of Wei and Wood. The historical Karl Marx is also rarely thought of as a martyr, possibly suggesting the distortion of history (a common theme in the genre) or that this world is the future of an alternative history, although maybe sacrificed is simply a poetic synonym for dead.

[edit] Plot summary
We first see Li RM35M4419 as a child, nicknamed "Chip" by his nonconformist grandfather, Jan, who dates from the time when the Unification was less refined than it is now—there were then over 20 names for boys alone. Jan encourages Chip to be more than just a nameber.

Chip grows up, and begins his career. He never quite fits in as well as he should, and is denied permission to reproduce. He has formed no close adult relationships anyway. He is suddenly recruited by a group of secret resisters, who meet in the local pre-Unification museum and coach Chip into acting drugged to get his mind-altering treatments reduced. Chip is careless, and is discovered, and through him the whole group. But first he discovers that there are islands on pre-unification maps in the museum that are patched over with blue and not shown on official Unification maps . . . He is treated, and resumes his drugged existence.

Some years later, a delay in getting his treatment due to an earthquake contributes to his coming alive again. He is able to shield his arm from the treatment nozzle, and becomes fully awake for the first time. He kidnaps the girl he was attracted to in this first group, who joins him willingly as she comes fully awake, and heads for the nearest mysterious island, Majorca. They get there thanks to a boat conveniently left on the beach. They learn that the islands are more or less safety valves for the Unification society, malcontents are given hints through such clues as the maps, and manage to escape. Chip and his new wife, Lilac, find a poor existence on the island.

But Chip conceives of a plan—destroy the computer, UniComp, through explosives. He is able to recruit volunteers and get a wealthy woman to finance the plan. He leaves behind his wife and son and journeys with the volunteers to Uni's home, where public tours (he had taken one as a child) are given. As they get there, they are betrayed by one of their own, who marches them at gunpoint into a large room—filled with applauding people. They have qualified to join the programmers of Uni, led by Wei.

Chip is initially contented, but grows less so. When another group comes in, he takes some of their explosives and goes to plant them among the machines. He is confronted by Wei, and they fight. Chip defeats Wei, and the explosives go off. Wei dies in a rain of metal, killed by the machine he helped to create. Chip leaves and prepares to return to Majorca and his family, mulling over the lives lost, and the ones now saved, from people who will not die at 62.

1 vote | bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Ira Levin's novel reads like a straightforward version of Huxley's Brave New World. I liked it, but there's better out there. ( )
  EmilyRokicki | Feb 26, 2016 |
My all-time favorite book, [This Perfect Day] is filled with social commentary and plot twists. An astounding read! ( )
1 vote | AstoundingBruce | Jan 29, 2015 |
Not quite as good as his other books. Didn't hold up as well over time. Awkwardly dated. ( )
  elizabeth.b.bevins | Nov 4, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
A futuristic society run entirely by computer, and an individual's rebellion against it.
added by KayCliff | editNational Housewives Register Newsletter, Hazel K. Bell (Sep 1, 1976)
 
In de toekomst wordt de wereld bestuurd door een computer die een in bepaalde opzichten ideale maatschappij heeft gecreëerd (geen honger, rassendiscriminatie e.d.) waarin echter alle persoonlijke vrijheid verdwenen is. De hoofdpersoon komt in verzet, vlucht naar een eiland, vindt daar medestanders, etc. met andere woorden: een traditionele anti-utopie, gebaseerd op het (m.i. valse) dilemma tussen de ideale staat en de persoonlijke vrijheid. Huxley en Orwell, wier invloed diudelijk is, zijn beter, maar omgekeerd is Levin weer veel beter dan de doorsnee-sf. Het boek is overigens uitgebracht als een 'thriller', waarschijnlijk om de niet-sf-lezer niet af te schrikken. Vrij kleine druk.
added by karnoefel | editNBD / Biblion
 

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ira Levinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Niessen-Hossele, J.F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Christ, Marx, Wood, and Wei
Led us to this perfect day.
Marx, Wood, Wei and Christ;
All but Wei were sacrificed.
Wood, Wei, Christ, and Marx
Gave us lovely schools and parks.
Wei, Christ, Marx, and Wood
Made us humble, made us good.
- child's rhyme for bouncing a ball
Dedication
COMPLETED IN JUNE, 1969 IN NEW YORK CITY AND DEDICATED TO ADAM LEVIN, JED LEVIN, AND NICHOLAS LEVIN
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A city's blank white concrete slabs, the giant ones ringed by the less giant, gave space in their midst to a broad pink-floored plaza, a playground in which some two hundred young children played and exercised under the care of a dozen supervisors in white coveralls.
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Chip fights for freedom from a mechanized, chemically controlled world which stifles nature and human individuality.

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