Dover Book

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    This is the eighth out of thirteen of the Doomsday Classics series at Dover Publications. If you have been following my book reviews, you know I am reading the entire set. This one was by far the best of what I've read to date, though I have liked, or at least found interesting points in all of them, so it has been a good project for me and hopefully for my readers. The title suggests apocalypse, and though many of the Doomsday Classics, are, or could be, this is more a dystopian novel, but just for one country, that being Germany.
    Just recently Dover has decided to make this one available only as an eBook. DO NOT BUY EBOOKS FROM DOVER!!! You can get the majority of their books FREE from sources such as Project Gutenberg, so PLEASE do not pay their outrageous eBook prices. Out of the thirteen, and I own them all, I have bought six as book books and the rest were free eBooks. I would never under any circumstances actually pay for an eBook. There are millions of free ones online. Seek and ye shall find and I usually do. With Dover, the exception is the newer books they now carry, rather than just copyright-expired reprints, for which they were originally known. The other exception are books over 450-500 pages, which require too much device charging. In both cases, I order the paper copy.
    Before I continue, I must clear up some discrepancies, or confusion about dates, as they appear different in different sources. The blurb for the Dover edition says it was written in 1919. It was serialized that year, under the title, "Children of Kultur," but actually published as a book the following year, under the present title. There is also confusion about the year the novel is set. Some sources say 2041, but that is the year the Germans built their city of Berlin that became impenetrable. The year the action takes place is 2151. And the other point of confusion is that it is an underground city. It is not. It is an immense building of sixty stories that houses 300 million people, only five of which are underground. Here is a quote from the book, so you can set the image correctly in your mind.

Having cleared the desk I next turned to Armstadt's book shelves. My attention was caught by a ponderous volume. It proved to be an atlas and directory of Berlin. In the front of this was a most revealing diagram which showed Berlin to be a city of sixty levels. The five lowest levels were underground and all were labelled "Mineral Industries." Above these were eight levels of Food, Clothing and Miscellaneous industries. Then came the seven workmen's residence levels, divided by trade groups. Above this were the four "Intellectual Levels," on one of which I, as a chemist had my abode. Directly above these was the "Level of Free Women," and above that the residence level for military officers. The next was the "Royal Level," double in height of the other levels of the city. Then came the "Administrative Level," followed by eight maternity levels, then four levels of female schools and nine levels of male schools. Then, for six levels, and reaching to within five levels of the roof of the city, were soldiers' barracks. Three of the remaining floors were labelled "Swine Levels" and one "Green Gardens." Just beneath the roof was the defence level and above that the open roof itself.

    And the picture on the cover of the Dover edition? Well, I don't know where that came from, but the entire building is like a city, with roads and vehicles, and well lit. The pictures implies the people live in a tunnel. Though they have only artificial lighting, their living situation seems quite comfortable and "homey," all things considered. Pictured below is the image from Goodreads, which is much more accurate. And their Good Readers had mostly good things to say about this novel. One of the points many of them made was the novel's prescience, definitely a book that will go in my "Accidental Prophesies" section on my Futuristic, Apocalyptic, Time Travel Index Page, where you may read all my Doomsday Classics reviews. Anyways that is what blew me away. Now keep in mind, this was written after WWI before WWII. But Hastings obviously had a sharp sense of seeing the big picture and connecting dots. And while the book is written about the Germans, it accurately portrays our present global dystopia There people were bred for one specific function and when they excelled, they were given "Paternity Rights." The Eugenics department chose which women they were allowed to "breed" with. Since enough generations have passed since Berlin has communicated with the outside world, everything the public believes is merely propaganda. It reminds me of some quotes that keep rearing their ugly heads these days. For instance, "You will own nothing and you will be happy." And the equally chilling one, "We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." (William Casey, CIA Director 1981-1987.) In fact, there was quite a bit that made me shudder here, not because it pointed to a dystopian future, but because it is what we are living in now. People's ability to think for themselves is being gradually taken away through myriad means, such as the brain-killing substances being sprayed on us, the proliferation of toxic radio frequencies/EMFs, and of course, these killer vaccines that are NOT being injected into people to save them from a plandemic that doesn't actually exist. The only thing Hastings did not include, perhaps because the whole computer scene wasn't part of daily life yet, was transhumanism. Now, if all this doesn't pique your curiosity, you are not paying attention! But I must add one more point, to be perfectly candid. Though this situation was one of totalitarianism, it lacked the underlying sense of evil that we are experiencing now. Though emotions had been bred out of most of the inhabitants, (but not all, and those were the important ones), there was also no mention of genocide, as became Nazi Germany and certainly what we have now. In fact, those who were selected (and you had to be selected) for paternity and maternity, were expected to reproduce in abundance. And as far as the environment, they were enclosed in a building, so that was not an issue.
    Incidentally, Hastings was an interesting guy and Wikipedia provides quite a bit of info on him. He was born in Farmington, Kansas and lived from 1884 to 1947. He was "an American inventor, author, and nutritionist. He invented the forced-draft chicken incubator and Weeniwinks, a health-food snack. He wrote about chickens, science fiction, and health, among other things." Project Gutenberg carries five of his books, which you can access through the link above. I suspect there may be more online sources for some of his other writings.
     Here is a synopsis of the story in three paragraphs, then I will elaborate, and choose some quotes out of the multitude I would like to include, but I'm not writing a book, just a review. The unnamed narrator (until the end of the book), who has been well-trained in chemistry by his uncle, sets off to work the old Potash mines in Stassfurt. Germany has been reduced to a small black dot on the world maps. Their entire existence is the city of Berlin, described above. No one can penetrate the building, nor even get close to it because of The Ray, a secret weapon they have developed.
    While exploring the potash mines, our narrator and his crew hear machinery from a short distance, so they blow up the area, knowing they are Germans. He then ventures to go into the shaft because no one else will. The cable breaks and he is knocked unconscious, and by the time he revives, he realizes he men believe he is dead, and have left. So he explores, and finds a dead officer still sitting at his desk. He feels as if he is staring at himself because the resemblance is so remarkable. When he hears the sound of rescuers, he quickly changes clothes with the man and destroys all his own belongings. He finds a diary to learn who he now is. He is Captain Karl Armstadt, who is fortunately, a chemist. He fakes unconsciousness and is rescued. Since he has suffered from "gas poisoning," it is easy for him to be "forgetful." He is even given a card by the authorities explaining his condition, in case he should be discovered "breaking any rules." The thing that worries him is the mention of a woman—Katrina—in Armstadt's diary. But his fears soon abate, when he receives a letter from her, breaking off communication.
    This "illness" allows him to discover more information about the man he is impersonating. Soon he is back to work, and since chemistry is his profession, plus his late uncle and he had been working on a certain project important to the Germans, he tells the staff that he has solved a problem and gives a demonstration. He is then promoted and begins another project, also of which he is already familiar. Because he has proven to be exemplary in his field, and chemists are extremely honored here, he is given paternity rights. He is ordered to visit three women from whom he must choose. He is repulsed by all of them, and the whole paternity thing, and refuses to participate. He is sent to Dr. Zimmern, an old man who is the Chief of Eugenics. They become fast friends, because Zimmern is a rebel and wants the German state to end. Most of the book, then on, consists of Armstadt's discoveries about their situation, and he becomes part of a secret group of people, which includes one young woman, Marguerite, who guards the forbidden library and is very close to Zimmern. Armstadt falls in love with her, but cannot express it because he thinks she is Zimmern's lover. But she is not. He eventually presents his solution to the problem which he had been familiar with for years, and is elevated to the highest rank, just below royalty, where he now has clearance to visit the royal level. All the time he is inching closer to escape, especially since he now knows German secrets. His small circle is aware of all this and supporting his efforts, because it will mean freedom for them, too. However, he still has not told anyone the truth of his identity. Yet. But it is eventually discovered when he accidentally meets up with Katrina. I will stop there and hope I've not said too much.
    Now here are some details and quotes. In 2041, the World State was all a democracy. On the map, all land was gold and the sea was blue, but Berlin was the one black blot, which stood for socialism—autocracy. At age 24, our hero's uncle was killed in a lab explosion in Chicago. So the young man is now wealthy, having inherited everything, and that is when he sets out to explore the potash mines. The problem his uncle had explored for years concerned the synthetic food produced by the Germans, and how it was made. After the explosion and capture in the potash mines, the young man, whom we will now call Captain Karl Armstadt learns after he "recovers" and "returns to work" that it is protium, which is mined through submarines traveling a secret underwater passage to the Arctic, beneath the Ural Mountains in Northern Siberia.
    But before he returns to work, he allows himself to explore while he still suffers "memory loss, due to gas poisoning." That way, he can be a bit more free with his enquiries. He learns about all the different levels, and what each caste is and is not allowed to do and be. Chemists rank high, so he has his own apartment and relative freedom. Laborers share an apartment with one bed, because while one sleeps, the other works. They are assigned six hours of work, six hours of sleep and four hours of leisure. Since there is no daylight, they do not follow a 24-hours day. Everyone is weighed periodically, then the food that is sent to them adjusted to keep them at ideal weight. For Armstadt, it is delivered to his apartment on a conveyor belt. For the laborers, there are dining rooms designated by the number of calories one is allowed. Did I mention 300 million people live in this sixty-story building? That's about the same population of the U.S.. Here is a quote:

Following the diagram of levels was a most informing chart arranged like a huge multiplication table. It gave after each level the words "permitted," "forbidden," and "permitted as announced," arranged in columns for each of the other levels. From this I traced out that as a chemist I was permitted on all the industrial, workmen's and intellectual levels, and on the Level of Free Women. I was permitted, as announced, on the Administrative and Royal Levels; but forbidden on the levels of military officers and soldiers' barracks, maternity and male and female schools.

    The chemists are paid well, but really, they have little need for money, because all food and necessities are free. When Armstadt goes through his namesake's belongings, he discovers a checkbook. The money people are paid goes for entertainment. So I will tell you about the main form of male entertainment, which is the "Level of Free Women." At first he avoids going there, but eventually does. As he becomes more familiar with life in this prison, Berlin, he learns that these are the segment of the population that do not get paid. They have been rejected for maternity, and the educated ones who did not excel in their field, or for whatever reason that they just didn't "make it," are sent to this level where they are, well, this word was never used, but they are prostitutes and either go with the program or starve. That is where Armstadt's checks went, and that is what Katrina was. But it is not only that. Men and women come here to dine, gamble, socialize—it is probably the nearest thing to "normal life." This is where Marguerite lives, but she is not a whore. Zimmern supports her, and we learn the truth about her as the book progresses. Everything is registered, by the way, and it is Marguerite who warns him of a scammer with whom he almost made a very serious mistake in the attempt to "rescue" what he thought was an innocent and starving virgin. When he follows up and checks her out, he finds she is actually very well off, with numerous men having fallen for her lies. Here is more on the strict protocols everyone must follow.

Nothing, it seemed, was left for the individual to decide for himself. His every want was supplied by orderly arrangement and for everything he must have an authoritative permit. Had I not been classed as a research chemist, and therefore a man of some importance, this simple business of getting a hair-cut might have proved my undoing. Indeed, as I afterwards learned, the exclusive privacy of my living quarters was a mark of distinction. Had I been one of lower ranking I should have shared my apartment with another man who would have slept in my bed while I was at work, for in the sunless city was neither night nor day and the whole population worked and slept in prescribed shifts—the vast machinery of industry, like a blind giant in some Plutonic treadmill, toiled ceaselessly.

    He goes to a different barber than the one listed with Armstadt, and finds he cannot do that without applying for a new barber. When he accidentally gets off on the medical level, he attempts to buy a book in the bookstore and the owner calls the guard.
    The laborers are not allowed on the Level of Free Women, however. And as for paternity, people are chosen from all levels, not just the high ranks. Armstadt speaks with a husky, muscular man outside the dining rooms whose goal is to rise to 4,000 calories. He can do that through building his body and working hard. He is almost there. Then he will be granted paternity in his caste.

Each of the long tables of this Berlin dining hall, the ends of which faced me, was fenced off from its neighbours. At the entrance gates were signs which read "2600 Calories," "2800 Calories," "3000 Calories—I followed down the line to the sign which read "Maximum Diet, 4000 Calories." The next one read, "Minimum Diet 2000 Calories," and thence the series was repeated. Farther on I saw that men were assembling before such gates in lines, for the meal there had not begun. Moving to the other side of the street I walked by the lines which curved out and swung down the street. Those before the sign of "Minimum Diet" were not quite so tall as the average, although obviously of the same breed. But they were all gaunt, many of them drooped and old, relatively the inferior specimens and their faces bore a cowering look of fear and shame, of men sullen and dull, beaten in life's battle. Following down the line and noting the improvement in physique as I passed on, I came to the farthest group just as they had begun to pass into the hall. These men, entering the gate labelled "Maximum Diet, 4000 Calories," were obviously the pick of the breed, middle-aged, powerful, Herculean—and yet not exactly Herculean either, for many of them were overfull of waistline, men better fed than is absolutely essential to physical fitness. Evidently a different principle was at work here than the strict economy of food that required the periodic weighing of the professional classes.

    And here are two quotes—great descriptions of the breeding program. Of humans. And as their bodies have been bred for physical strength, their minds have been bred for dullness and stupidity, and yet they are happy, but have no ambition or curiosity. Again, I refer to the quote by WEF Founder, Klaus Schwab—"You will own nothing and you will be happy."

I went on and came to a different work hall where men were tending wire winding machinery, making the coils for some light electrical instruments. It was work that girls could easily have done, yet these men were nearly, if not quite, as hulking as their mates in the stamping mill. To select such men for light-fingered work was not efficiency but stupidity,—and then it came to me that I had also thought the soldiers I had seen in the hospital to be men picked for size, and that in a normal population there could not be such an abundance of men of abnormal size. The meaning of it all began to clear in my mind—the pedigree in my own identification folder with the numerous fraternity, the system of social castes which my atlas had revealed, the inexplicable and unnatural proportion of the sexes. These gigantic men were not the mere pick from individual variation in the species, but a distinct breed within a race wherein the laws of nature, that had kept men of equal stature for countless centuries, even as wild animals were equal, had been replaced by the laws of scientific breeding. These heavy and ponderous labourers were the Percherons and Clydesdales of a domesticated and scientifically bred human species. The soldiers, somewhat less bulky and more active, were, no doubt, another distinct breed. The professional classes which had seemed quite normal in physical appearance—were they bred for mental rather than physical qualities? Otherwise why the pedigree, why the rigid castes, the isolation of women? I shuddered as the whole logical, inevitable explanation unfolded. It was uncanny, unearthly, yet perfectly scientific; a thing the world had speculated about for centuries, a thing that every school boy knew could be done, and yet which I, facing the fact that it had been done, could only believe by a strained effort at scientific coolness.
In all this colossal business there was everywhere the atmosphere of perfect order, perfect system, perfect discipline. Go as I might among the electrical works, among the vast factories of chemicals and goods, the lighter labor of the textile mills, or the heavier, noisier business of the mineral works and machine shops the same system of colossal coordinate mechanism of production throbbed ceaselessly. Materials flowed in endless streams, feeding electric furnaces, mills, machines; passing out to packing tables and thence to vast store rooms. Industry here seemed endless and perfect. The bovine humanity fitted to the machinery as the ox to the treadmill. Everywhere was the ceaseless throbbing of the machine. Of the human variation and the free action of man in labour, there was no evidence, and no opportunity for its existence.

    Anyways, the project he uses to gain respect was one in which he already knew from before he was captured—reproducing a gas he had used to defend the German gas. And though, in a way he is giving away a secret to the Germans, his end goal, of course, is to escape and reveal everything he knows so that the rest of the world can finally be rid of this pestilent race. In the end it doesn't quite work out exactly as planned, but I won't tell you about that. Anyways, he is promoted to Colonel, and assigned a new assistant. Each of these steps is removing him further from the people Armstadt knew, which is increasing his safety from being discovered. That doesn't quite work out as planned either. His new advisor is the elderly Herr von Uhl, who asks him what he would like to work on next. Armstadt leaves it up to von Uhl, who is pleased with that response and assigns him the task of finding a better method of extracting protium from the ore. It is now Armstadt who is pleased, as this will reveal a way to bring the Germans to their knees. He gets more than he bargains for, and is sent home with a stack of top-secret documents and two armed guards to alternate standing outside his door for the entire time he is studying them. Herr von Uhl, by the way, has fathered 147 children. Out of 104 sons, 58 are now Captains and 29 are Colonels. Incidentally there are over twice as many men in Berlin as women.
    Armstadt now realizes that this is more than just a project. It will determine whether the German race can survive because they are now facing an impending food shortage. Ah, once again, how familiar does that sound?
    Sigh. I have pages and pages of notes, with big arrows in the margin indicating something I wanted to quote. But I will not, as I am heading past 4,000 words—a bit long for a fictional book review. Everyone should get the idea of what is going on here, because it is going on right now in real life. I was shocked at Hastings' visionary gift, and remember, this book was written before WWII and the rise of the Nazis.
    And so, as I said above, that this is by far the best I have read to date of these Dover Doomsday Classics. It is free from Project Gutenberg, linked above, and if you do not read another book the entire year, please read this one.
    I want to end with some quotes that exemplify both the novel and our current reality:

"If you tell a lie, tell a big one."
"If you tell a lie long enough, it becomes the truth."
"Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will."
—Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda, 1933 to 1945.

    And here is a quote from the article linked above about Transhumanism, called: Beware the Transhumanists: How 'Being Human' Is Being Re-Engineered by the Elite's Coup. It refers to two well-known novels, Nineteen-Eighty-Four, by George Orwell, and Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.

Once you fatigue people enough with the strategies of 1984, they are set up for the medicalization of society. Which is the brain stuff. The altering of the human brain with drugs and other approaches. Genes, perhaps. A brain machine linkup. Creating a different perception of reality. Externally applied electromagnetic fields. In which people will feel happy even though they are slaves. You see, in 1984 it's really all about hysteria. The people are being driven into the wall with lies about wars and lies about enemies and lies about political structure, and the control over individuals is very harsh, and the leaders are not looking to create real happiness, not the fluffy stuff. Redemption, yes. Forgiveness, perhaps. The people are being fed pain and big brother is commanding them like a drill sergeant through their TV sets. But after that, after people sink into an acceptance of the delusions that are being foisted on them, then comes the science. The making of some kind of replica of happiness. The old order is 1984. You can call that the Plan from the dawn of time to about 1945. After that is the transition to Brave New World.

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