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This Crowded Earth by Robert Bloch

This Crowded Earth

by Robert Bloch

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I listened to this 1950s science-fiction novella as an audiobook. It starts with Harry Collins describing his unbearable life in the hellishly overcrowded Chicago of 1997, following which he has a breakdown and is sent to a mental hospital. While he is there he stumbles upon a mystery, but it is years before he fully understands what is going on.

The solution to the overcrowding is novel but to say more would be a big spoiler, and I enjoyed Harry's investigations in the early parts of the book more that the later part. ( )
  isabelx | Aug 14, 2017 |
The premise of this novel is that because of severe overcrowding, life on the planet has become miserable and unsustainable in the long run. The ridiculous solution is that all future children are going to be injected with something during pregnancy that will make them small, on average three feet in height. This causes all sorts of problems, among them a war between the naturalists, who are of normal height, and the yardsticks, those born small. The yardsticks win out but face other issues including short lifespans and a gradual dying out of the species.

This is a novel with a crazy amount of flaws in logic. What saves it is that it is still entertaining. Among the flaws, the concept that the best solution for overcrowding is to make people smaller is just stupid. Also, the author is way off in his premise in claiming that at a population of seven billion, the planet would be way overcrowded, which obviously isn’t true since we are above those levels. The author also lacks any sort of imagination about how future commuting issues could be solved by using technology and telecommuting. In the story, war is obsolete because there are atomic fusion bombs that are too dangerous, and therefore nobody is willing to fight anymore. That is a laughable premise. The danger of weapons has done little to prevent violence around the world. There are so many similar things where the author didn’t think things through or lacked imagination. For instance, the yardsticks are concerned about their females delivering normal sized children until a naturalist says this can be accomplished by C section. This is hardly a novel concept, but it was treated as such in the story. As I said, the story does have some entertainment value and on that basis is worth reading despite all of the flaws.

Carl Alves – author of Reconquest: Mother Earth ( )
  Carl_Alves | Aug 18, 2015 |
An interesting story about the future and its horrors. ( )
  Gregorio_Roth | Dec 5, 2014 |
Do you know who wrote the novel Psycho which Alfred Hitchcock adapted to film? Neither did I, until I checked upon Robert Bloch, the author This Crowded Earth. Turns out he did, and he also wrote episodes for the original Star Trek series and won several awards for his novels. Yet another writer I never heard of until I checked what science fiction books are available at Libirivox.org. This crowded earths was one of them and I was happy to listen to it

The book covers the long life of Henry Collins, who at the beginning seems like a typical person in a really overcrowded world. And when I mean overcrowded I am talking about having virtually no space to walk, eat, work, live, never-ending traffic jams and staying in line forever for every little thing. Bloch did a great job of describing a suffocating future like that, caused by simple overpopulation. The solution (SPOILER ALERT) is to make people smaller. Through experimentation this medical project comes a reality, although at a price as the half size or smaller people will have to regularly inject themselves with meds to function properly. They also live shorter lives. And as expected they hate the tall people, who call them yardsticks. The feeling is sometimes mutual so eventually a civil war breaks out between them.

What does all this have to do with Collins? He inadvertently ends being the father of the first small person. After he has a nervous breakdown, because unlike his most compatriots he cannot cope with life in such a close quarters to so many people, he finds himself in a sanatorium on the luscious countryside. He gets healed, because it is remote and undisturbed. In the process he impregnates woman, who just offer themselves to him. But then he discovers, at the pushing of an investigative journalist the secret experiments the babies made here are exposed to.

I won't retell all the details of the story, his escape from the sanatorium, his years a a cowboy and as a prisoner, the civil war, the efforts of some wise men to create cooperation between the warring sides… Let me just warn you that the idea of working together for humanities future be your small or big doesn't exactly workout as one would hope. But the book is an exciting depiction of how life could turn out be if we keep breeding like we do and how solutions planned for not long enough perspective can create more problems.
2 vote break | Jan 28, 2010 |
Interesting free download to my kindle from feedbooks.com. Only one Bloch novel available at present, hopefully more to come in the near future. Question: what if you had a plan to alleviate overcrowding by downsizing people, instead of controlling population? What would be the end result? Written in 1958, I found this an engrossing read. ( )
  desertgrandma | Jun 20, 2008 |
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