Sunday, May 17, 1936

Book Review

Fantastic Tale Carries
Reader Into Year 1985

Miss Ertz Takes A Fling Into Wells'
Territory And Writes Of Things To Come

Reviewed by W. J. CASH

By Susan Ertz, 219 pp. and six illustrations,
Appleton-Century, New York, $2.00

Site ed. note: Incidentally, it was not until 1949 that George Orwell published his analysis of the year preceding that in the account reviewed here. Miss Ertz seemed to have some degree of prescience, albeit partly hyperbolized in metaphorical terms only--and it turned out to be Korea for two years, not Italy for 20 days, and most of the rest did not fully transpire until 1989.

But if Mr. Cash had known in 1936 that a then 25 year old radio deejay and sports announcer who would appear in cinematic mediocrity for the first time the following year in "Love Is on the Air" would be the leader of the free world in the year 1985, Cash might have been persuaded to go back to the future and write his own book about the year in question. No doubt, it would have been titled something on the order, "Rest Easy on the Balustrade".

And, Lord only knows, no man or woman from any political persuasion in 1936 would have dared risk writing with such a bizarre pen as reality betrays of the year 1998 without the fear of quickly being ushered over to Dix Hill for thorough examination. --...Year begins with national mourning over short-term Congressman, former pop singer, killed in Heavenly Valley skiing accident and ends with a fellow handing out souvenir gavels with a broad, broad simper . . . and, well, it ends. In all likelihood, the doctors--and his or her editor--would have concluded that the writer had imbibed so much fermented peach squeezings as to be impeached--and would have recommended he or she be shipped for a long sunny vacation in the Carribean. But apparently, not so in 1998. The book--The Strange Case of Dr. Heckle and Mr. Gibe, by Soar Lozers--believe it or not, has nevertheless been rush-published by Dunno-DNA Spot Press, Monroe, N.C., sells for $6.66, and you will find it anywhere you look--everywhere you look. It is so bad it is not worth a prolonged review but in today's climate, it passes among some nevertheless for high-minded non-fiction--and a subset yet actually believe it to be mostly real and, worse, worth their time to "rectify" any wrong done (by anyone who believes differently from them) for the sake of "the next generation". Isn't that "Star Trek"? Better to go back and glean an understanding of Measure for Measure.


Miss Ertz here takes a flyer into the territory of H. G. Wells and concerns herself with the shape of things to come. The teller of the tale, a medical man, is projected, by devices which are not altogether unfamiliar, into the London of the year 1985. Communism has come to Great Britain, as to the rest of the world--and gone. The ugliness of the present industrial order has completely disappeared, and England is once more the pleasant park it was in the 18th century--though with great differences in the prospect created by the hand of man. Houses, for instance, are of colored glass. There are hourly crossings of the Atlantic, and Americans walk about Whitehall as familiarly as they walk about the streets of their market towns at present. Science has made enormous strides in every field, and the United States of Europe has for some time been realized in actuality.

The War of 1950

But, though warned by the fatal events of the great Twenty Days War of 1950, the stupid and restless statesmen of the nations, have continued their endless intrigues, and the statesmen of one of them--obviously Italy--have sought to seize mastery for themselves and have once more plunged the world into war. Within a few days they have been put down by the rest, with Britain at their head. But--so many men have been killed that they cannot be buried rapidly enough, and in the vast heaps of rotting corpses a new and peculiar microbe has been generated--one which attacks only women, which spreads upon the winds all about the earth, and which is invariably fatal. So, as our protagonist lands in 1985, there are only two or three females of the species still alive in the world, and within a few days these, too, are dead. Men face the fact that their race is doomed, and that they must go on to their end without feminine company. Suicide is rampant, though a few sour old scoundrels breathe loud and pointed sighs of relief.

Woman Alone

Then--just when suicide seems about to claim the whole male population, our medical man discovers that one woman has escaped--finds her sleeping in her bed--and, taking her into his house notifies the authorities and the world.

What happens after that, I shall let the reader find out for himself. I merely record here that though Miss Ertz has hardly made the best of the possibilities--and particularly the comic possibilities of her situation, she has nevertheless created a very diverting tale. And her picture of what the world will be like 50 years from now is as plausible and as interesting and somewhat less formidable in detail than Mr. Wells'. That the book is well written I need tell only those who are not familiar with her previous works.

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