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The Throne of Saturn by S. Fowler Wright
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Feb 07, 2012

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Read from February 07 to July 24, 2012 — I own a copy

I just picked this up at Ken Sanders, my favorite used & rare book shop here in Salt Lake City. I'm slowly building up a small collection of Arkham House books, and this title attracted me even though I knew nothing about the author. Thankfully, it is significantly cheaper to acquire than most Arkham House titles of the same vintage (1949).

Today, I randomly picked and read a single short story from this collection: "The Rat." It's about a physician who develops an inoculation against mortality, which he administers to a moribund rat. To his own amazement, the inoculation seems to work! The rat regains its youthful vitality and gives every indication that it will no longer suffer the disease of aging.

Much of the story is taken up with the doctor's ethical quandary about what to do with this new-found drug. Should he announce it to the world? Should he keep it secret, and administer it only to a select few? Or should he simply destroy the rat and the drug in order to avoid potentially horrifying consequences of universal youthfulness?

Wright's analysis of these questions, through his character, is really quite deep and thoughtful. Just when one thinks that the story has turned into a philosophical tract, however, the plot intervenes, takes some clever twists and turns, and develops the narrative into an engaging story.

"Justice," the first story in this collection, is quite interesting in light of contemporary times. This story is about a future where medical advances have increased the average human lifespan by about 15 years. This, combined with a population growth policy that limits births, has led to a situation where the elderly have increasingly become a burden on younger, productive generations. (Sounds like an anticipation of our Social Security crisis, doesn't it?) In Wright's story, the problem is ultimately solved by violence and laws which increasingly lower penalties for homicide, as the age of the victim rises.

"Brain" is a curious tale of an elite class of scientists that assumes inordinate political and social power. A member of this elite class stalks nubile young women and justifies his ways with the thought that he is advancing the evolution of the human race by perpetuating his "genius" genes. This is the creepy story of a young girl who must respond to the brainiac's sinister demands, and finds deliverance from a surprising and symbolic source. Very Hawthorne-esque!

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Williwaw P.S. This whole book is available online, in case you are interested in sampling it for free.

The Throne of Saturn

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