I'm trying to find a book I heard about once.

Little is known:

  • it was already in print in 1990's
  • there were moving walkways (used for chasing in one scene)
  • hero was predetermined to work as cleaner/sweeper, wanted to become an author of these tests ("books", "long books") that were used to determine profession,
  • and it was revealed that those who don't pass the test are actually rare genius.

It sounds much close to "Brave New World" or Gattaca's scenario, or Heinleins "Roads must roll", but is neither.

The most reason I'm interested in finding this book is, that Iar Elterrus's novels (these I'm currently worshipping) contains a ton of references to such plot, and I want to discourage myself knowing if the plot was actually "stolen" or not.

Also, references to such universes (psychological screening, massively genetic prenatal-tested society?) are welcome in comments even if they don't match the full request.

  • 1
    No idea, but this reminds me of Jack Vance's "Dodkin's Job" thought there are almost no points of similarity. Aug 31, 2013 at 23:34
  • @dmckee, that was it, almost it, but minor differences.. so no, thanks.. can you, please, explain here in comments why you see no difference to what I described?
    – kagali-san
    Aug 31, 2013 at 23:56
  • I see little that is the same, not little difference. The protagonist of "Dodkin's Job" is also a menial worker which is almost the only thing that is the same. But Vance's work may be interesting to people who know/like the work you describe. Sep 1, 2013 at 0:07
  • You said what you're looking for is a "novel", a "book". The answers and comments so far have not named any book or novel, only novellas and novelettes. Please clarify: by "novel" do you mean "novel" or do you mean "novella, novelette, or short story"?
    – user14111
    Sep 1, 2013 at 6:39

2 Answers 2


The Asimov story "The Profession" mentioned in the other answer is one good possibility.

Another possibility is Keith Laumer's "Placement Test." I can't find enough information online to be sure it matches the moving sidewalk you mention, and my copy (I have it in this collection) is packed away at the moment, so the following is probably only approximately correct:

People's jobs/positions in society are determined by tests. The protagonist knows he's bright, and hopes to work his way up to an executive position, but somehow his test results say he's only suited for a menial job.

He's sure there's been a mistake so he tries to figure out who's responsible for the tests but doesn't get anywhere. As he gets more desperate, he cheats his way into a re-test, then breaks in to a part of the testing building where only executives or people being tested for executive can go, gets access to the testing computer and enters outstanding score results for himself and ends up getting a top-level executive job.

Not many days later, a guy that he eluded while breaking in to the executive floor confronts him and explains that his bad test results were themselves a test - and by taking matters into his own hands he's proved that he should be one of the decision makers.

The style is a bit cheesy by today's standards, but for its time (written in 1964 apparently), it depicts a somewhat gritty, dystopian society.

  • Congrats on identifying the correct answer and my upvote for getting it with relatively fewer details.
    – beichst
    Sep 1, 2013 at 17:25
  • That story is available online in the Baen digital library.
    – user56
    Sep 1, 2013 at 18:10

The part about the person wanting to become an author of the tests and later that those who cannot learn the tests are actually geniuses is strongly reminiscent of the "Asimov short story "The Profession" from 1957. In it the hero fails at the exams, proposes a way to get around them using old-fashioned methods and is later revealed to be a genius in the respect that only he and a few others have the creativity necessary to create new knowledge.

However, the "tests" in that case were not books, but taped learning. I also don't recall any pre-natal genetic testing as this was from 1957.

Below is a description of the story.

Wiki Description - The Profession

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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