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Literature / The Talking Coffins Of Cryo City

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In the year 2097, all natural disasters, famines and overpopulation have been defeated. Everything is regulated by computers and machines, which the humans trust completely. The problems of terminal illnesses, old age and crime also are about to be under control: The person concerned are frozen in Cryo-City only to be defrosted again as soon as a solution for their individual flaws is found.

The sixteen-year-old Kallie lives with her father, a farmer, her mother, a musician, and her sister, who works in the center for weather control, which also gets supervised and regulated by a machine. Despite everyone still fully trusting this machine's abilities, it hasn't rained for far too long, her father's harvest is withering and the wind and rain operated musical instruments of her mother have to be driven by fans and sprinklers. The day her invalid grandmother Mavis has her appointment to be frozen in Cryo-City, Kallie comes to a decision: Together with her friend Alan, she infiltrates her sister's bureau and gives the weather computer the command to let it rain – despite the supervising machine still enjoining hot and sunny weather.


She is declared a criminal and the penalty is to be cryo-conserved until she can be “healed”. But the scientist whose duty it is to freeze her, has taken pity on her and spares her – as well as defrosting several women whose brains got damaged in the process and now try to kill her. Kallie has to find her way out of Cryo-City and away from the defrosted, to tell the world that everything is not as perfect as they believe it is...

The Talking Coffins Of Cryo-City is a dystopian YA novel by Shirley Parenteau. It was written in 1979.


The Talking Coffins Of Cryo-City contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: A world factually ruled by computers making computers' mistakes and endangering all life.
  • After the End: It is implied that many a catastrophe had to happen until life was as seemingly perfect as it is during the course of the novel.
  • An Aesop: Don't rely completely on computers!
  • Apathetic Citizens: Everyone.
  • As You Know: At the beginning, Kallie's mother explains to her that “we all know” that the computers regulate the climate of the Earth. Later, she has a biology lesson in which cryo-biology is explained.
  • Audience Surrogate: Kallie
  • Beneath the Earth: Cryo-City
  • Big Brother Is Watching: It is a mere minute after Kallie gives the weather machine the wrong information that a police robot arrests her and Alan. There are psychographic detectors. Everyone is watched at every moment.
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  • Body Horror: The defrosted, whose skin is described as dry and bluish and they're covered in chilblains.
  • Came Back Wrong: The defrosted
  • Chekhov's Gun: The disc records
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Kallie, of course
  • Crapsaccharine World: While everything seems perfect on the surface – there are no problems with crime or hunger – as soon as the computers don't work as planned anymore, everything goes to hell.
  • Cryonics Failure: It is heavily implied that this can possibly happen.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Kallie has done nothing but letting it rain. Once. And she is sixteen. She is punished by being frozen without even being able to wish her family farewell and without a real chance of being defrosted alive again.
  • Dystopia
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: They are not cold anymore, but the defrosted ones went mad after being defrosted due to brain damage, thus making them evil.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The capsule in which you are frozen failing. You have oxygen for a mere 30 minutes. This turns out to be a lie. There never were failures of this sort.
  • Foreshadowing: Kallie notes that the robots are mowing the lawn even though it his withered and brown.
  • Green Aesop
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Dirk wants to find a method to thaw humans without harming them, but he does so for mere fame and glory. The defrosted seem evil at first, but actually, they're just mad and desperate. Kallie hates Dirk and even knocks him out to flee, but in the end he saves him from being torn apart by the defrosted.
  • Harmless Freezing: Subverted. When a human is frozen, their blood is substituted with glycerin to prevent water in the vessels when thawing them again, but this technology is not yet mature enough to allow for flawless defrosting, which is why the few people defrosted by Dirk are mad and full of chilblains.
  • Human Popsicle: All the people in Cryo-City. Save for the defrosted ones.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: The robot judge before whom Kallie is brought.
  • Laser-Guided Karma
  • Ludd Was Right: Allowing the computers to take over everything is bad, bad, bad! Just letting it happen is much better, as well as farming in old style and with love instead of high tech.
  • Mad Scientist: Dirk
  • Nobody Poops: At least, there is no possibility mentioned as to how/where the defrosted do it.
  • No Name Given: The defrosted
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Again, the defrosted, due to brain damage.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Implied with the dark haired girl
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Could justify how Kallie acts towards Dirk once in a while.
  • Tragic Monster: The defrosted, who are clearly mad but cannot be helped.
  • Truth in Television: It is mentioned in the novel that in earlier times, you were allowed to get cryo-conserved only after your death. This is now, at least in the US.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future
  • Working Class People Are Morons: Kallie's family, teachers, and all officers and clerks she meets are completely Genre Blind and don't seem to care about the menace of a drought.
  • Zee Rust: Kallie's sister's job is it to feed the computer the information on which weather it will be. How does she do that? With punchcards.
    • The titular coffins "talk" via disc records.

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