Ultimate DownsizingIn Jan Furst’s futuristic novel Ultimate Downsizing, Ossie, an emissary from the planet Balder, the closest planet with Earth-like life on it, travels on the tail of Halley’s Comet on a mission to learn more about the utopian society that Earth has created for itself in order to effect positive change on her own declining planet.

What she finds upon reaching Earth, though, is that nearly every job on the planet has been “downsized” and automated. All businesses have slowly merged until there is only one giant conglomerate: Planet Earth Inc., of which all members of the planet are equal shareholders. Planet Earth Inc.  is ruled by a King and a small “Brain Trust” that oversee all aspects of Earth’s progress. The vast majority of the work on Earth is now performed by powerful robots, including the police force. Needless to say, all crime has been eliminated.

In a communistic 22nd century future, similar to the world created in Ayn Rand’s Anthem, the governing body controls all aspects of human life, including reproduction and job placement.  At birth, all citizens have chips implanted in their left hand with which they are allotted their proper share of food and entertainment. The chips also keep them from entering areas where they are not allowed.

Although the King offers a rosy view of such a lifestyle to Ossie, she beings to realize that there are “no real problems to be solved, no real challenges for young people to face, no real risks to take – for better or for worse.” This leads her to wonder “Was this really the best way of life? Was it a lifestyle to impose on the rest of the planet?” This seems to be the central question that the book strives to address, although readers may be surprised at the heroine’s ultimate decision.

John Lennon asked us to “Imagine all the people, living life in peace” and Jan Furst paints just such a charming world in the brisk 77 pages of Ultimate Downsizing, but often it seems more like wishful thinking than true science fiction. Artists, athletes, and actors still exist, thriving on the attention and fame they garner rather than monetary rewards. But in a perfectly idyllic world with nothing new to discover and zero population growth, motivation and self-discovery seem to disappear as well. Everyone is following orders from someone else, even the ruler is chosen at birth to rule for nearly a century.

This future Earth is a world that we can all imagine, but without truly developing the characters and examining the consequences of such a fantastical Eden-like planet in depth, Furst may not quite get everyone on board his harmony ship, which is a shame because his quick pacing and pleasant writing style pull the reader along like a quiet, smooth outboard motor. Where the boat is heading, however, remains a bit of a mystery.

For more information on the author, visit: http://www.thorfinn.ca/author.html

To purchase Ultimate Downsizing, vist: http://www.amazon.com

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