I can remember reading this story when I was younger, possibly in an anthology, but can't remember the title or author.

It featured a dystopian society set in the future that was falling apart as its members gave in to debauchery and hedonism as its members devolved into brain dead pleasure zombies/slugs.

All the characters are very simple, taught only enough to get by despite having once been an advanced society.

The main character was a man who worked in some kind of plant -- I think hydroelectric? -- whose station was showing a catastrophic error and he had to learn how to fix it through books and a visit to the library.

He had a lover who kept trying to get him to forget about fixing it and become one of the hedonistic slugs with her.

If anyone could please point me towards the book and/or author, I was hoping to find them again. :) Thank you for your time regardless.

  • Hi, welcome to the site. In roughly which year did you read this? Nov 3, 2023 at 0:46
  • 1
    It would have been around '99, 2000, the book was definitely older, it was in a small town library. Nov 3, 2023 at 0:48
  • Intriguing. reminded of walleye but i suspect this theme has been repeated many times. i wonder if the history of the roman empire (decline and fall) inspired these semi-apocalyptic stories -- before the 20th century, actual apocalypse caused by humans i do not think came up because technology was not yet capable -- but society decaying must have been in many minds for many centuries.
    – releseabe
    Nov 3, 2023 at 1:04
  • What you described is pretty close to the essential plot of Idiocracy.
    – hamstar
    Nov 3, 2023 at 2:16
  • Sounds like science fiction becoming science fact... :(
    – FreeMan
    Nov 3, 2023 at 13:44

1 Answer 1


Pump Six by Paolo Bacigalupi, in his collection Pump Six and Other Stories?

From a Goodreads review:

In a collapsing society where intelligence has dropped markedly, all of the machinery from 100 years ago is beginning to breakdown…and no one knows how to fix it.

The titular pump is used to keep a city from being flooded by sewage, matching the hydroelectric part you mentioned, and is beginning to fail. I don't remember a love interest but it's been a long time since I read it.

From a summary of the stories in the book:

Manhattan in the future has become one huge mess; so polluted that it affects everyone’s ability to think coherently. It is kind of like if the film satire Idiocracy were limited to just one city. The title refers to sewage pumps in the city which are basically the only thing holding utter devastation back because they were constructed perfectly to keep the sewage from overrunning the streets. Unfortunately, due to the widespread idiocy caused by the pollution, nobody knows how to build or construct or repair anything. Which is bad news when a certain pump finally does break down.

  • I read this fairly recently. There is a love interest; I remember there is one point where she is trying to figure out why the gas stove isn't working, using a lit match to help her see...
    – tsc_chazz
    Nov 3, 2023 at 22:08

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