The Inverted World
Harper & Row, 1974
Faber and Faber, 1974
Galaxy Science Fiction, 1974
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The city is winched along a track through a devastated land full of hostile tribes. Tracks must be freshly laid ahead of the city and carefully removed in its wake. Rivers and mountains present nearly insurmountable challenges to the ingenuity of the city’s engineers. But if the city does not move, it will fall farther and farther behind the “optimum,” slipping into the crushing gravitational field that has transformed life on earth. The only alternative to the city’s forward progress is death.
The secret directorate that governs the city makes sure that its inhabitants know nothing of this. Raised in common in creches, nurtured on synthetic food, prevented above all from venturing outside the closed circuit of the city, they are carefully sheltered from the dire necessities that have come to define human existence. And yet, for all that, the city is in crisis. The people are growing restive, the population is dwindling, and the rulers know that, for all their efforts, slowly but surely the city is slipping ever farther behind the optimum.
Helward Mann is a member of the city’s elite. Better than anyone, he knows the risks the city runs, how tenuous is its continued existence, how essential it is that discipline be maintained. And yet, as he is about to discover, the world is even stranger than he dreamed.
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