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Make Room! Make Room!

Narrated by: Eric Michael Summerer
Length: 8 hrs and 20 mins
4 out of 5 stars (26 ratings)
Regular price: £16.89
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Summary

The world is crowded. Far too crowded. Its starving billions live on lentils, soya beans, and - if they're lucky - the odd starving rat.

In a New York City groaning under the burden of 35 million inhabitants, detective Andy Rusch is engaged in a desperate and lonely hunt for a killer everyone has forgotten. For even in a world such as this, a policeman can find himself utterly alone....

Acclaimed on its original publication in 1966, Make Room! Make Room! was adapted into the 1973 movie Soylent Green, starring Charlton Heston along with Edward G. Robinson in his last role.

©1966 Harry Harrison (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Katerina
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 07-09-10

A darkly compelling vision of the future

An outstanding reading of Harry Harrison's classic distopian vision of a future, in which mankind is on the verge of breeding itself to death, having consumed virtually all the world's resources as the population continues to grow at an exponential rate.

In the cities, food and water are subject to rationing for all but the corrupt and wealthy few. Homelessness is rife, with most of the population living on the streets or in makeshift shelters. It's against this backdrop that New York detective Andy Rusch investigates the murder of a wealthy - and very shady - businessman, hooking up with the dead man's moll in the process.

This main thread of the novel is a police procedural, with shades of '30s pulp detective fiction. While gripping in its own right, it serves primarily to provide a context in which the protagonists - Rusch, his girlfriend Shirl and Billy Chung, a young boy for whom a life of crime and misfortune are an inevitable consequence of his impoverished circumstances - interact with the drab, mundane horror of the world they live in.

Make Room! Make Room! has been on my to-read list for years and this audio rendition perfectly realises everything I'd hoped the book would be. The novel is unrelentingly dark, teasing listeners with a tantalising glimmer of hope, only to snatch it away in an instant.

While some of the social issues Harrison confronts have perhaps lost their immediacy (in most of the western world, at least), others, including environmental depredation, global overpopulation and the class divide are still every bit as relevant as when the book was first written.

The text is also of particular interest in the context of the time it was written, with a progressive (if typically bleak) attitude to women's and civil rights that's not found in many other stories of the era.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Could have been so much better

This book takes an interesting premise – the overpopulation of the world and the associated depletion of its resources – and doesn’t do a lot with it. Other than setting the novel in the future setting (the turn of the millennium - future from the perspective of the time the author was writing) there are no clever concepts about the future of society or technology. The only concept advanced in limited detail is the overpopulation of the Earth, focusing on New York City, but despite the pressures that this is putting on humanity there is no thought given to any measures that would have probably been taken by that point to alleviate the stress, and very little development of the world beyond New York. Instead, the book seems to be a soapbox for the author to talk about the importance of birth control which must have been a controversial topic at the time of writing and perhaps still is in some parts of America but to today’s audience will probably seem only partially relevant to wider concerns that would be prevalent in such a world – including wasteful use of resources, renewable energy, and sustainable development, etc.
 
There is no plot to speak of and this is the most disappointing aspect of the book. The story opens with the potential to become a crime thriller or murder mystery with cop pursuing killer but really fails to develop that and the murder has no influence on the story other than forcing the perpetrator to leave his home, which has little influence on wider events. The ultimate solving of the crime has no bearing on events – it wouldn’t have mattered to the story whether the murderer was caught or not. Later on, when the cop meets a girl, there is the potential for a relationship drama but that fails to develop too and the reader is left wondering why the relationship has developed at all given there seems to be no real reason for the characters to be together. There is also no real depth to the story thread about the exiled murderer struggling for survival on the margins of society in the future New York. It all could have added up to so much more but there is no real emotional intensity to any of it. There is no tension or drama throughout the book – it proceeds at a slow pace and lacks any urgency or excitement. The whole story could read as a case study about how not to write an engaging fiction story – i.e. no drama, no tension, no peril, no character motivation, no clear plot, little worldbuilding. Even the killing scene - a minor moment of drama - is over in a flash. Really the only thing driving the action is the poverty and the pressures this exerts on the characters – but while this is ostensibly about a future New York with fewer resources, it could really have taken place in any present-day setting where resources are scarce and there is a significant contingent of people living in poverty. The overcrowding per se is immaterial.
 
The action also cuts at random moments and then jumps ahead to several days later, leaving you wondering how the events in the previous scene were supposed to have played out. For example a chase scene when the killer is running from the police ends abruptly and although he gets away, we're not told how and the police don't seem to be talking about it at all after that. It's ages before we revisit the killer, leaving the listener wondering what was the point of that original (rare) moment of drama.
 
The characters are one dimensional and limited in scope and depth. None are fleshed out in any real detail and not much thought is given to motivation or values, or even whether they have a sense of humour (no-one in the future New York seems to). Small parts are filled by caricatures – the jowly police lieutenant, the slow-witted-and-gentle-but-strong black bodyguard. The one woman character seems to exist for no other reason than to service the men around her and spends the entire novel whining and asking why things can’t just be nice the whole time.
 
The narration is dull and the affected character voices are twee and many sound like stereotypes you've seen in countless cop films: the scowling grumpy police chief, the big, deep-voiced negro servant, the creepy street dwellers of New York.
 
Great sci-fi weaves in its societal points as part of the plot, but this one hammers them home in one character monologue toward the end of the book – about the lack of birth control information and the impact that has had. It feels very unsubtle.
 
It all could have been so much better and left me wondering why this book is considered one of the important works of classic sci fi.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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Not what I expected

Any additional comments?

I bought this on the strength of the film Soylent Green, but it feels more like Bladerunner without the gunfire.
"Soyent" added components to the book that gave the story more of an edge, while the book just meanders without really getting anywhere.

However, there IS a seriously good point about over-population. I just believe that other writers have done better in this area.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Joel D Offenberg
  • 18-08-09

Excellent book, well read

An excellent dystopian view of the future, "Make Room! Make Room!" shows a world that is depressingly believable...vastly overcrowded cities, failing infrastructure and the struggle to secure the basic necessities (especially water) dominate every-day life. The book is very prescient; it reflects current concerns over environmental destruction and exhaustion of natural resources, which seemed remote and hypothetical when the book was published in 1966 (only 4 years after "Silent Spring" started the environmental movement).

The novel is written as a police procedural set in the New York City of 1999. Making the protagonist a detective was effective as it allowed the reader to see many aspects of the "Make Room!" world in a natural manner. However, between the setting and the realities of police work, the book is very bleak.

The movie "Soylent Green" was loosely based on "Make Room! Make Room!" Very loosely. More accurately, the movie setting was taken from the book and some of the plot elements, but the story, the themes and the conclusion are very different. For example, there is no "soylent green" in the book at all. If you've seen the movie, you haven't read the book, or vice versa.

Those who want to study such things might want to compare "Make Room! Make Room!" to the more antiseptic future envisioned in "Brave New World" (which was written about 35 years earlier).

Summerer's narration is quite good. He really pulls the listener into the story, and his reading is well paced and the characters are voiced distinctly without much apparent strain on Summerer's part, or the listener's (it helps that there aren't really all that many characters).

In conclusion, an interesting, if depressing, listen.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 31-05-17

The Story Struggles to Find Purposes.

Watch Soylent Green to find a better story. To many characters introduced for no reason.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Douglas
  • 02-06-14

A Very Early Harry Harrison

What disappointed you about Make Room! Make Room!?

Harrison has written several engaging and funny SciFi novels. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. It's pretty dated by now; it's pretty plainly social commentary / political propaganda in the cause of birth control. I don't disagree with the message, but it doesn't make entertaining reading. More of an historical curiosity, as this is no longer a controversial issue.

What could Harry Harrison have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I can't fault him for writing this, several decades ago. I am mystified why Audible or anyone else would want to record it so many years later.

What three words best describe Eric Michael Summerer’s voice?

Narration was fine.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

None I can think of.

Any additional comments?

I guess I need to look more closely at the synopsis and comments, before buying a book, even from an author I thought I was familiar with.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Jim "The Impatient"
  • 21-01-12

Unable to see

New York City is expected to hit 19 million this year, but according to HH when he wrote this book in 1966, NYC was going to hit 35 million by 1999. England was suppose to be one huge city. Resources were almost completely exhausted. In NYC water, food, housing and most everything is rationed. People live in huge ships anchored in the harbor, they also live in cars that have been pushed into huge parking lots. Cars don't run anymore. The police are inept and most murders go unsolved.

I know it is easy for me in 2012 to be critical of something written in 1966. Had this been written strictly for entertainment I believe that would be true, but this was written as a political statement by HH for planned parenthood. Most of the top sci-fi writers of the fifties and sixties wrote books warning us against overpopulation. Today they write about global warming, trying to scare us with a political statement. I am not saying they are wrong, I just believe it is important to look at some of the causes authors took up in the past and see just how wrong they got it. These authors did not see the advances in agriculture. They did not see the decreasing family size, due to changes in society. They did not have the vision to see just how large the world really is.

The book is written in two parts. I found the first part to be a bit slow and I did not find the love interest between the cop and the whore to be believable. Part 2 was more believable and more interesting, not enough to recommend the book, but if you do have it, you will want to continue listening.

My favorite books about overpopulation are Robert Silverberg's "The World Inside" and Frederik Pohl's " Space Merchants".

37 of 52 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Carlos
  • 20-05-14

OUTDATED

Would you try another book from Harry Harrison and/or Eric Michael Summerer?

Yes

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Probably not.

Any additional comments?

The story was OK, but was set in the 90s before Y2K and thus was hard to relate to today,

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jacob
  • 03-10-17

Happy New Year?

Unexpected ending for me... Having grown up watching Soylent Green, I really thought it would be closer to that story. Very good book though, excellent narrating, and not a boring part about it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Jacob Hawken
  • 19-06-15

A depressing propaganda scare piece

This book is a not-even-veiled-at-all propaganda piece designed to frighten people about the looming threat of overpopulation. There honestly isn't even really that much of a story aside from that. There are characters, and they do things, but there's really not much of a story, and nobody really learns and grows. It's kind of depressing and not altogether a very enjoyable read.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • crazybatcow
  • 09-01-17

Neither story nor expectations are realistic

I always seem to expect more from these classics than I get from them. This one is okay... kinda... it is very dry and we don't actually care that the whole world is starving to death (well, all of NYC is anyway)... the characters are all a bit of a jerk and the female character trades on her sex to get by. Oh, sure, this is par for the course for the genre and the era, but I always prefer when authors put some work into character development and have women be something other than independently mobile sex toys, or, perhaps, slothy neglectful mothers.

I guess Harrison's underlying premise is that overpopulation would starve out humanity (because "someone"/"the MAN" bans birth control) and, while that might have been an issue in the 60s, nowadays it is more likely that we will starve out humanity by virtue of genetic modifications, disease and toxic water contamination... End result = the same, but the process of getting there is mildly different (only mildly though because it is still "someone"/"the MAN" who puts their profits from fracking and oil pipelines ahead of clean water, for example).

Anyway, I am glad I read it and can accept that it is a product of its era, driven by the concerns of that era. I won't be looking for more books by Harrison though. The narration is fine. There is no swearing, sex or graphic violence.

13 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • stearnshd
  • 10-12-18

disappointed

I decided to read this book as it was the foundation for the classic 1973 "Soylent Green." But this is the one time where the screenplay was miles better than the book. I found the story dragged on with no real plot and it got very preachy. The narration was flat as well. It ended with no real point.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jason
  • 12-02-18

good book

like what they did with the movie taking the ideas if the book and going further. enjoyed it