In the future, overpopulation has created an Earth in which seventy million people are cryogenically frozen until room can be found for them. When a crack in space is found by a Jiffi-scuttler repair man, Jim Briskin, candidate for presidency, announces his plan to relocate the excess population to the alternate Earth where they can live out their lives. Almost immediately, the alternate Earth is found to be sparsely populated with different descendants of early hominids, severely complicating the socio-political situation for Jim and the moral implications of settling versus invading another world. When colonization ensues regardless, Jim ends up having to take the fall for the unexpected backlash.
Published in 1966, this is essentially a race story. Most of the volunteers to be cryopreserved are poor “non-Caucasians”, some of whom are pregnant teenagers refusing to abort. Jim Briskin is the first black man running for president, and has to deal with rascist groups backed by powerful businesses that don’t support his politics. Although this book is not overtly characterized by false reality themes like other PDK favorites, it demonstrates that one’s own reality of who is in your group is highly dependent on who is outside of it. It’s a lot more difficult to be racist against blacks when you’re up against an essentially alien race. Even the fabulously wealthy power hungry conjoined twin George Walt, who is constantly arguing with himself, and who doesn’t even look human (modern or early hominid), eventually comes down on one side.
My only real complaint is the over-abundance of characters which left several plot lines unresolved. Dr. Lurton Sands illegally harvests organs from the cryopreserved. Myra Sands, the renowned abortionist, essentially sends young people to the preservation chambers. Tito Cravelli, the hard-boiled film noir detective keeping tabs on all, is trying to find Sands’ mistress, who is finally found hiding in the alternative Earth. This fast-paced and content-packed story is filled with rich science fiction details, including Jiffi-scuttlers that warp space for instantaneous travel, synthetic coffee, vid phones, and an orbiting space brothel. An engaging read that effectively uses a different world to shed insight on our society here and now.