Anyone suffering from tachophobia should set a sedate course away from Logan’s Run. This is a book that moves so fast, Michael Crichton, if he ever read it, might have popped a couple dramamine.
It’s about Logan 3, who has just turned 21, the age at which the citizens of Earth in the year 2116 must either accept “sleep” or run. If they try to escape, spurred on by the shadowy legend of a place called Sanctuary, they are more likely to be ripped apart by the terrible weapons of the black-clad Sandmen, the elite unit whose mission it is to track and kill runners. No one knows this better than Logan, who is himself a Sandman.
Authors Nolan and Johnson try to introduce some suspense by telling us that Logan isn’t afraid to die, he just doesn’t want to go quietly. If, Logan thinks, Sanctuary does exist and he can expose it, he will at least die a hero. It’s a red herring we never fall for, of course, so it’s no spoiler to say that when Logan runs, he runs for his life.
The story covers about 48 hours and in that time Logan is beaten, tortured, raped, and forced to fight for his life at every turn. The book starts at Chapter 10 and counts down to 0 (a nice touch) and in all but one of these chapters, something horrible happens. It couldn’t possibly work in a longer novel, but my paperback is only 150 pages, so the authors pull it off, though with little to spare.
The sheer breathlessness of the plot makes it readable, but what makes it good is the science fiction. Isaac Asimov once said that he couldn’t exactly describe how SF writers built their worlds, but that it was an accumulation of subtle things — a word here, a phrase there — that together took the reader into a new world. Well, there’s nothing subtle about Logan’s Run, but it demonstrates a variation on that method: it plunges you into a new world and then builds it from the inside out with small details: the kind of clothing the characters wear, the words they use, the objects they wield. And then, of course, the authors make it convincing by giving you no time to think about any of it!
If you haven’t read this but you’ve seen the movie, you will find that you’re often surprised and occasionally nostalgic. The most glaring difference is the lack of domes in the novel. The cities of Earth — and the vast spaces in between — still exist and they’re where people live and hide, just as we do now. In the movie, it was a shock when Logan and Jessica stepped outside; in the novel, “outside” simply means out of doors.
Yes, Jessica is also in the novel. She’s tough, too, but she’s not a fighter, not like Logan. Still, without her, Logan could never have gotten as far as he does. Adrenaline can only take you so far. Like, say, 150 pages.