Friday, September 7, 2012

The Millennium by Upton Sinclair

A disappointment by a great author
I think one of the characters sums it up best about a third of the way through when she says, “Why! It’s like a bad joke by some Socialist!” I’m quite sympathetic towards Upton Sinclair’s political views, but after having read this book, his sense of humor escapes me. The story takes place in the year 2000, when America is ruled with an iron boot by some wealthy oligarchs. Through a freak occurrence, everyone on earth is vaporized except 11 people. They split into two groups, one of which starts a Capitalist society; the other embraces Socialism. Sinclair originally wrote it as a play, then adapted it into a novel. The idea would have made a fine 20-minute skit at a Socialist Party Christmas pageant in 1924, but stretched out into a 250-page novel it is tedious and uninspired. Although intended as a comedy, there’s a whole 50+ page section on the horrors of capitalism that contains no humor at all and just goes on and on and on. This variety of Socialist satire was pulled off far more successfully by Jack London on several occasions, most notably in his short story “The Strength of the Strong”.
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