No Place Else: Explorations in Utopian and Dystopian Fiction

By Eric S. Rabkin; Martin H. Greenberg et al. | Go to book overview

13
Robert Silverberg's The World Inside

Merritt Abrash


I

The World Inside ( 1971) is an engrossing novel. The extraordinary setting is compelling throughout. Characters are vividly drawn and sharply individualized, facing problems familiar enough to arouse sympathy yet fascinating in their twenty-fourth-century context. Cleverly interrelated plot elements sustain dramatic interest from beginning to end. For sheer readability, The World Inside ranks among the best utopian novels, even though rather less than a masterpiece is necessary to join that particular company.

At the same time, it is a description in detail of a futuristic society which clearly belongs somewhere in the utopian/dystopian spectrum. Characters in the book talk about the society's utopian qualities, and in the course of the narrative the author provides numerous commentaries of his own. Through ingenious devices, such as the research into the past by a member who happens to be a trained historian, the nature of society in A.D. 2381 is observed through a variety of perspectives and temperaments. Concern with the basic utopian dilemma of the individual's relationship to society is always present behind plot developments.

Furthermore, this close integration of idea with story is achieved within an unambiguously science-fictional context. Several of the works surveyed in this volume can be classified as science fiction, but The World Inside is the only one that first appeared in a science fiction magazine ( Galaxy) in the hallowed serial form, and Robert Silverberg has described it (along with his Tower of Glass) as "closer to pure science fiction, the exhaustive investigation of an extrapolative idea, than anything else I have written."1 As an exploration of an arguably utopian society, written by one of the best known names in the science fiction field and directed in the first instance toward precisely that

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