Manny's Reviews > The Men In The Jungle

The Men In The Jungle by Norman Spinrad
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Jun 06, 11

bookshelves: science-fiction, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts
Read in January, 1973

Norman Spinrad was one of the most gifted SF satirists writing during the 60s and 70s. Probably his best book was The Iron Dream, a wicked under-the-belt attack on trash right-wing SF, where he imagines a parallel universe in which Adolf Hitler moved to the US and became a science-fiction writer. Dream consists of a short intro and afterword by a fictitious reviewer, sandwiching Hitler's magnus opus, Lords of the Swastika, a lunatic Nazi rant which in this parallel world has become one of the best-loved staples of the SF cannon. Some people must have felt rather uncomfortable after reading Spinrad's book, or at least I hope so.

The Men in the Jungle isn't as good, but it has its points. A charming, completely amoral operator named Bart Fraden escapes just in time when his latest empire collapses, and sets off in search of new worlds to conquer, together with his chief military adviser, his beautiful red-headed squeeze, and a large amount of weaponry and illegal drugs. They land on Sangre, an off-the-beaten-track planet which is controlled by an appallingly evil band of sadists. If I remember correctly, the Brotherhood of Pain have set up a society where they rule over a population consisting mainly of helpless serfs, except for a few men who are recruited as soldiers, a few women who are used by the elite as prostitutes, and a fairly large number of small children who are killed and eaten - no other animals on the planet are even remotely edible.

Well, clearly anything is going to be better than this? So Bart and his friends start using their drugs and technology to stir up a revolution, figuring that not only are they going to make a lot of money out of it, they are doing the downtrodden inhabitants of the planet a good turn. They're going to liberate them! But, somehow, it doesn't work out. Amazingly enough, at the end of the book things are even worse than they were at the beginning.

Now that I write it down, the plot does seem to remind me of something. What could it be?
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I just saw this book on Scott Cupp's Ten Overlooked Odd Speculative Fiction Classics, which Paul sent me earlier this evening. Nice to see that other people agree it deserved more attention...
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