25

I am pretty sure this was a short story in a collection of sci-fi stories.

It was written from the perspective of one of the people whose job was hunting down and killing people that grew too old, after he himself reached that age. IIRC, he is hunted by his own protege.

I think that there was some kind of sign they had, a painted red hand. But that might be from somewhere else.

I read the book around 20 years ago, but would assume the story to be older.

  • 1
    The 1968 cult classic film Wild in the Streets - Wikipedia had a similar theme. It's not what you want, but it's based on a short story, "The Day It All Happened, Baby!" by Robert Thom, and perhaps that is. – Ray Butterworth Feb 17 at 14:42
  • 3
    I'm old enough to have seen the TV series on release, so this questions sounds to my ears like "What was that one with the kid, the old guy and the wheezy guy in the black mask and they fight with laser swords, and there's a rebellion". – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 17 at 22:14
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica, that sounds more like the traditional "old people send young people off to fight for a cause that died before they were born" – Separatrix Feb 18 at 7:58
  • 4
    @Harper-ReinstateMonica Old man, young man, masked man, rebellion and light sabres? You obviously mean "The Man in the Iron Mask"! :P – Chronocidal Feb 18 at 13:14
  • 1
    @Harper-ReinstateMonica: Sounds something like this, is what you're saying? youtube.com/watch?v=Cg-pnGFbwMQ (Note, some profanity.) – Eric Lippert Feb 18 at 17:52
64

That’s probably Logan’s Run, by William F Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. It was turned into both a film and a TV series, and there are several sequels.

Published in 1967, the novel depicts a dystopic ageist future society in which both population and the consumption of resources are maintained in equilibrium by requiring the death of everyone reaching the age of 21. The story follows the actions of Logan, a Sandman charged with enforcing the rule, as he tracks down and kills citizens who "run" from society's lethal demand—only to end up "running" himself.

The sign isn’t a painted hand, but a crystal embedded in the hand. It changes colour as you get older, and goes black when you’re over 21.

| improve this answer | |
  • 7
    Might be worth noting it does flash red/black on "Last Day". – TheLethalCarrot Feb 17 at 12:04
  • 3
    @Lot Don't accept the answer unless you are sure this is what you are trying to identify. Otherwise you will put others off from answering and you won't have your answer. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 17 at 12:13
  • 15
    Actually, in the movie and series the age was 30 -- probably changed so they could use adult actors with known names and faces (Michael York,for instance). – Zeiss Ikon Feb 17 at 12:48
  • 3
    Ah yes... a dystopia about a world where those totally old 23 year olds and 28 year olds get killed. ;) – Lexible Feb 18 at 21:00
  • 2
    One of the movie tie-in paperbacks shows a red hand on the back cover: flashbak.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/… – MJ713 Feb 18 at 23:08
23

This sounds like it could be Logan's Run, which published in 1967 and made into a film in 1976.

Logan is a sandman, a kind of police officer who tracks down and kills runners, who are people who've reached the age of 21 and have tried to run rather report to a Sleepshop.

People are implanted with a crystal that turns red as they become teenagers, and black on their 21st birthday. This could be the "red hands" you remember.

Logan is tasked to pose as a runner and infiltrate an underground railroad which has been helping runners get away. He discovers that the railroad is being run by his friend and fellow runner.

| improve this answer | |
22

I see several analogies with "A Generation Removed" by Gary K. Wolf although it doesn’t fit your description 100%.

In this short novel, published in 1977, the US are ruled by the young people and, as long as they're young, they are also allowed to do anything they wish: people are young up to the age of twenty.
As soon as they turn twenty they become adults and are tolerated as active population until the age of 55: at that point, old people keep being checked up even by mobile units on the streets and, as soon as they aren’t healthy anymore, they are euthanized on the spot.
Or just burned in fire chambers as a show for the young people’s delight.

The main character is a 51 year-old cop who's been assigned desk duties due to his age: but suddenly his Captain (even by name) puts him to active duty again, to infiltrate the resistance network, made up of old farts who keep fighting the young rulers.
Once accepted by the resistance, he realizes they are the good guys and joins them actively, de facto turning on the police: but Captain already knew he would betray them and lets his deputy hunt him until the final showdown.

There are no red hands involved but people over 55 must wear a black band to the arm.

| improve this answer | |
14

It’s more a short novel than a short story, but this is a good match for William F Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s 1967 Logan’s Run.

It has:

  • A society where people are executed at 21
  • A group of enforcers (Sandmen) who track and kill those who try to escape death
  • Crystals in peoples hands which turn red when they reach 22
  • A main character who stages his escape on his final day to find where the escapees go
  • He is chased by a friend (not a protege)
| improve this answer | |
1

It reminds me of Buzzati's "Cacciatori di vecchi" published in 1966. It really is a short story, not a short novel. It was translated in French as "Chasseurs de vieux". It's hard to find information in English about it, although it is mentioned here.

In the story, there is a youth movement (criminal? it is not clear) that hunts down elderly people. It ends with the leader of the movement being himself old and hunted down.

Even if what you are looking for is Logan's Run, it is pretty interesting that this was published before and seems very similar.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.