Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy

 

Science Fiction

Looking Backward Looking Backward: 2000-1887Edward Bellamy; Signet Classics 1960WorldCat

Julien West fell asleep in his specially built chamber in 1887. When he woke up in Boston, it was the year 2000. He then had to adjust to a completely new environment. So you are thinking this book shows how computers, automobiles, and space travel have changed the look of the world. Nope.

First, the reader discovers this book was published in 1888. The author of this early time travel novel was picturing a utopian society that had developed within the next 113 years. In America in the year 2000, the government owned all property and paid all people the same amount whatever job they had. All people have a mandatory working time from age 21 to 45. All receive a college education. All work in some sort of labor (what we would call “menial”) job for three years, then can go into the profession of choice.

Bellamy took all of the ills of society and managed them in such a way that all were cured through making all men feel equal. There are none better or none below others. His vision included credit cards, radio, indoor malls, and a supply ordering system that could match the internet now. When he wrote this novel electricity had been harnessed and telephones invented, but were still in their infancy.

This book is fascinating when you realize when it was written. Bellamy used it to spout his utopian society ideals and comment on the 19th century values. But he also had some vision of the future that comes true. At time the philosophy gets a bit overwhelming (especially during a Sunday morning sermon), then we return to the overall story. Julien has left behind the woman he was to marry. Can he make a new life in this time without her or anyone he knows?

This is a book that will not only appeal to science fiction lovers, but to historians and philosophers. No, we have not come close to the utopia Bellamy envisioned, but we have achieved some of his technological visions.

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