Dayworld by Philip José Farmer
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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
First Published: January 1985
Read from: December 04 to 05, 2013
Dayworld – An Engaging and Exciting Read
“Dayworld” by Philip Jose Farmer (1985) has elements that remind me of a lot of other classic sci-fi books. For example, some of the police procedural, hi-tech dystopian world elements and pulp sci-fi & action story tropes of “Dayworld” remind me of “Bladerunner”, (the Ridley Scott movie more so than the “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” Philip K. Dick novel from which it was based). I guess its not that surprising as the visually-stunning and goundbreaking vision of a future dystopia that was Bladerunner came out in 1982, just a few years before Farmer published Dayworld.
And the author of both stories first names were Philip… Okay, never mind. As I was saying…
The point is that while many of the individual elements of the “Dayworld” world may seem similar to other sci-fi novels; the main sci-fi “hook” of Dayworld is to my knowledge totally unique. It does what another of my favorite sci-fi novels (“Ringworld” by Larry Niven) does so well. It takes a very cool and BIG science-based idea that sounds a little crazy at first, and then explores it and its implications in a very serious yet action-packed and entertaining way.
So what is Dayworld’s hook?
Due to overpopulation and strained resources the world long ago adopted the use of a technology called “Stoning” which essentially is a form of stasis or advanced suspended animation where the atoms of matter are basically frozen in time. Everyone in the world is allocated one day of the week in which they live their life as a part of a very organized and controlled society. The other days of the week they are stoned, essentially dead until revived when their day comes around again. With only one-seventh of the world’s population awake each day, each day of the week becomes it’s own individual “world”.
The main character is a “Daybreaker”, a criminal who lives multiple lives with different identities (one for each day of the week) while secretly working as a kind of cross-day courier and operative for a powerful and secret organization called “the Immers” whose motive claims to be a gradual subversion of the overbearing government with an aim towards relaxing the harsh controls it keeps over its citizens.
“Dayworld” is the first in a trilogy of books, one of Farmer’s later series. I have read “Dayworld” and its sequels multiple times, as it has become one my favorites. I discovered it shortly after its publication when looking for more books by the author. I had read and loved one of his earlier series of books, “The World of Tiers” series, which was written mostly in the 1960’s & 70’s, and is a great pulp sci-fi/fantasy action-adventure series with nods to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter & Tarzan series while being completely its own animal. Farmer is also well known for his Riverworld series which I have never really given a serious reading. (I’ve acquired copies and they are in my queue though.)
I give “Dayworld” 4 out of 5 stars. The story is rich in awesome ideas and themes, and interesting exploration of the “Dayworld” society & technologies. There is mystery, intrigue, action and adventure. The story shifts gradually from these action and sci-fi tropes to a very psychological thriller as well.
There are SOME minor issues though:
ONE: An action scene has an unnecessary bit of overly dramatic touches that feel a bit “Deus ex machina”.
|Spoiler: Ghost in the Machine?||Show>|
TWO: A chase scene near the end seems interminably long. Did Farmer have a word count to meet?
THREE: While many things about the overly-controlled society seem bang on, there are a couple which seem unrealistic and overly convenient for the story.
|Spoiler: Big Brother is watching, when it's convenient?||Show>|
FOUR: Finally, some people may find issue with Farmer’s somewhat typical sexual scenes and the slightly sexist slant to the main character who seems strangely indifferent towards his family members and female attachments. As the plot evolves some of this attitude is explained, but it still seems a little strong and jarring at times.
In conclusion “Dayworld” is an excellent bit of science-fiction “world building” and is an engaging and fairly exciting fast read, that leaves you wanting to read the sequel.