Literature: Make Room! Make Room!

Make Room! Make Room! is a 1966 Science Fiction novel by Harry Harrison.

It is set in the Crapsack World of New York City in the far-future year of 1999, beset by overpopulation and environmental collapse, where a bland artificial food called soylent (made from soy and lentils) is the best thing most people ever get to eat.

It is now best-known as the inspiration for the film Soylent Green. (The famous secret of Soylent Green was invented for the movie, and isn't in the book.)

This novel provides examples of:

  • Crapsack World: In addition to the everything crapsack-y about the movie, the transportation system has completely broken down. In other words, everyone is trapped in the city; the only non-human-powered vehicles mentioned are old buses taken from a history museum, used by the police and running on extremely low grade fuel.
  • Eat the Dog: "Leg of dog" is one of the rare delicacies offered at a black-market butcher shop.
  • The End Is Nigh: A secondary character in the novel is a defrocked priest who's eagerly awaiting the turn of the millennium, which he assumes will bring the end of the world.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: Soylent steaks made of soy and lentils are an expensive item.
  • Gaia's Lament
  • Global Warming: Barely a page goes by without someone complaining about the ever-present humidity... in New York at winter time.
  • New Year Has Come: The novel ends shortly after midnight on January 1, 2000.
  • Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap: Even soy-based faux steak is expensive and worth practically rioting over.
  • Post Peak Oil: Cities effectively become their own totally isolated city states when the oil becomes too rare to use. The only form of long-distance transport mentioned are large freighters (shipping food to the millions effectively trapped in cities); on the local level, motorized transit has been replaced with human-powered "pedicabs" and "tugtrucks".
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The "overpopulated" Dystopia has a population of around seven billion. The book was written when the world population was 3.4 billion; apparently Harrison couldn't imagine a world with twice as many people in it being not all that bad.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: The book was written in 1966 and set in 1999.
  • Used Future