Wow, This book. I had never heard of it before, but I am a completist, and I have been reading a lot of Ira Levin lately. I found this copy at a used book store. But I don’t think I’ll be trading it back. I might like to re-read sometime.
This Perfect Day was first published in 1970, but the dystopia depicted in the novel may sound eerily familiar. The story follows Chip from the age of about 6 until around 37 or so. He has been born into a world that is controlled by one large, global computer system, Unicomp. Uni, as members of the Family (citizens) like to call it, takes care of everything. Food has been simplified to something called total cakes, and everyone drinks Cokes. The world population is controlled – Uni decides if someone can procreate. They are also controlled through drugs, which inhibit disease as well as the growth of facial hair in men and breasts in women. There are only four names for men (Bob, Jesus, Karl and Li) and women (Anna, Mary, Peace and Yin). These names are derived from the four “engineers” of this society, Bob Wood, Jesus Christ, Karl Marx, and Wei Li Chun. Members all have “namebers,” long strings of their names, birth year, etc. Chip’s (a nickname given him by his grandfather) nameber is Li RM35M4419. Members are also only allowed to live to the ripe old age of 62.
Family members are indoctrinated into their society from an early age through playground rhymes:
Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei,
Led us to this perfect day.
Marx, Wood, Wei and Christ,
All but Wei were sacrificed.
Wood, Wei, Christ and Marx,
Gave us lovely schools and parks.
Wei, Christ, Marx and Wood,
Made us humble, made us good.
What makes the story exciting is how Chip struggles with his lot in life and his attempts to break out of his state and his various backsliding into conformity. The sheer size of Uni is definitely 70s-era, which will amuse folks in the iPhone era. There are also some strange attitudes about sex, although that’s just as much a part of the Family as it is the time it was written. This Perfect Day is definitely a good, sometimes fascinating read, in the tradition of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984. And modern readers can’t help but relate to the prevalence of mind numbing drugs and a government who thinks it knows what’s best to keep its citizens distracted and placated.