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I read a book many years ago set in a 'post scarcity' society where most work is done by robots/computers. Most people are unemployed and this group of friends, who sick of having no money, bored, no job, and robots taking all the menial jobs, like bar tendering, decide to start a political party.

Each 'friend' had a different agenda. The woman was interested in sex. One of the guys just wanted to be a bar tender. So they start this political party as a prank and start to sell memberships. The membership numbers start in the thousands and if you want a lower number you have to buy it, (like the Nazi party which the book mentions). Some of the rules are 'no virgins'.

As they start to become popular, the government becomes nervous and gets an FBI agent to infiltrate and spy on the party but he can find no malfeasance and, instead, joins them. The party and their semi-anarchic plans become very popular and eventually the 'friends' have to retire as, while they had only ever planned the undertaking as a prank the members of the party loved the idea and took it very seriously.

To my memory it read like 'Stainless Steel Rat' ie Harry Harrison but if it is I can't find the title in wikipedia.

Anyone?

  • Hello Yupo96, welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy and thank you for your question. Can you edit your question to add when you read it, and where? Also, take a look at this list and see if anything jogs your memory. – SQB Oct 31 at 7:45
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Trample an Empire Down, by Mack Reynolds. First published in 1978. I bought a copy in a used-book shop, some years ago, but I just barely remembered and recognized the general plot when I saw your description today, so I had to do a little Googling to figure out what the title was. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be an e-book edition available through Amazon at the moment, but, if you click on the title, you will find I linked it to where you can buy a used copy pretty cheaply. I believe this scan is from the first edition's cover art; it might ring a bell in your head?

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Mack Reynolds set many of his works in near-future worlds where certain economic realities had finally been changed by modern technology so that everyone was guaranteed to be able to afford housing, clothing, necessary medical care, three square meals a day, etc. But in many cases the adult citizens could not find permanent employment --- no matter how badly they wanted to feel they were doing something useful with their lives. In other words, Reynolds liked to play around with possible reasons for why reaching a point of "everyone's basic economic needs are finally being met, all day, every day!" would not necessarily mean that a true Utopia had been achieved, and would not mean that all other social and political problems would magically disappear into thin air in short order.

This book, as I recall, was more overtly satirical than much of what he wrote -- or at least that was my impression when I first read it. (Having previously read old copies of several of his other novels.) To show that we are, in fact, talking about the same book, I shall quote a few passages which illustrate that the plot closely corresponds to what you remembered.

For instance! Your mention of one woman in the new political party whose personal agenda centered around sexual issues, and the concept of "no virgins!" (when they're over a certain age, anyway), is clearly a memory of this passage. The character speaking first is Karen, one of the founding members of what they are proud to call "the Subversive Party."

"Ummm. I've got a pile of them. I've been in revolt on matters sexual since I was in my early teens and couldn't get satisfactorily laid because I was jail bait. The only sex I had was in places like the back seats of hovercars with gawky kids who didn't really know how to perform."

Morris cleared his throat and said cautiously, "What changes did you have in mind?"

Karen went into her ideas with a vengeance. "I feel that at the age of fifteen every girl should be required to appear before a government doctor for an examination. If she's still a virgin, her hymen will be surgically removed and then she'll be given one of these new birth control shots that last for a year. If she's not a virgin, she'll just be given the shot."

Her visitor said, "Go on. What happens to the virgin?"

She finished her drink. "She'll be required to take on a sex instructor, of her choice, for sex education."

"Uh, what kind of sex education?"

She looked at him scornfully. "What do you think?"

And here's a bit where an undercover agent of the IBI (Inter-Continental Bureau of Investigation) is reporting to his Chief (the Director of the Bureau) on what he's just learned about the goals and methods of the leadership of the rapidly-growing Subversive Party. The agent had been tasked with finding out if these were just some random nuts, or a serious danger to the status quo, or what, and he is now offering his evaluation.

Cliff Dix said, "Chief, this is more serious than I at first thought."

"How do you mean?"

"They're not serious."

The other looked at him, as though he was out of his mind. He said, "What in the name of Holy Zoroaster are you talking about?"

"The heads of the Subversive Party. They aren't serious. They're just in this for something to do. They're bored. All three of them are on Guaranteed Annual Income and they haven't anything to do, so they came up with this little romp. Remember you told me to read up on former radical parties of the United States; the Wobblies, the commies, the various socialists and so forth? Well, all those people were idealists, devoted. They really believed in what they were advocating. They might have been wrong, or impractical, or whatever, but they believed in it. The same applied to revolutionary organizations in other countries. Len and Trotsky were dedicated idealists, if we like it or not. In the French Revolution so were Robespierre, Danton and Marat. In the American Revolution, so were Tom Paine, Jefferson, Madison and the rest. The nearest thing to an opportunist was possibly Aaron Burr."

The other was scowling at him. "Get to the point. And these people?"

"I don't know about the rank and file membership but the three leaders are making this up as they go along. Their whole program. They're taking it off the tops of their heads. By the way, they aren't a bunch of crackpots in the ordinary sense of the word. They're all smart and with better than average educations and intellectual backgrounds."

Hardenberg was still scowling, as though he couldn't believe any of what his agent was telling him. He said, "How do you mean they're making it up as they go along? What's their program?"

"It's still half-formed and most of it's fantastic, but they're appealing to just about every element in the country from hopheads to homosexuals. In the past, minority parties appealed to one segment of the population or the other, to the working class, to Blacks, to anti-Semites, or whatever. This group is trying to appeal to everybody. They've even started a woman's auxiliary and a youth auxiliary."

As you remembered, the agent (real name Cliff Dix, but he infiltrates the party under the name of "Dick Oppenheimer") eventually switches sides because he doesn't like the brutal and dishonest tactics which the IBI is prepared to use to keep these people from winning an election. It seems to him that if the party is actually putting together a platform that resonates with the concerns of huge numbers of voting citizens, then the party should have its fair chance to go the distance.

  • Nice find and answer. – Organic Marble Nov 1 at 1:34
  • Hi Lorendiac, yes you found it. Well done, I am very thankful. How do I mark this as found or/and what do I do next? – Yupo96 Nov 1 at 8:54
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    @Yupo96 Scroll up to the start of my post. To the left of the first paragraph, there's a number showing how many people have given this one a positive vote. Just under that, there should be a gray checkmark. If you click on that, the checkmark should turn green, showing that you -- the person who posed the original question -- have now "accepted" my Answer as the correct one. – Lorendiac Nov 1 at 10:35

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