Friday, 17 February 2012

Review: Logan's Run

Logan's Run by William F Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (1967)

The year is 2116 and Logan 3 is a Sandman; a combination of policeman and executioner charged with the duty of tracking down and killing anyone who commits the heinous crime of wanting to live beyond their 21th birthday.  Armed with the Gun, a weapon with a small arsenal of specialised bullets, he is an efficient killing machine.  He has also just turned 21 and as the crystal implanted in his palm blinks from red to black, he decides to spend the last 24 hours of his life hunting down the legendary runner's haven of Sanctuary and destroy it.  Accidentally thrown together with Jessica 6, the twin sister of the last man Logan killed, they follow the path to Sanctuary, but the way isn't easy as they find themselves thrown from peril to peril in this brave new world.

One of the most famous slogans of the '60s Counterculture was "never trust any over thirty".  Logan's Run takes that motto and the entire cult of youth that marked the era and took them to their logical conclusion.  It's a time after the year 2000 when the Baby Boomers kept on booming until those under 21 were the largest demographic in the world–and the sealed their supremacy by executing all their elders.  This is a world where merely being an adult is a crime and where youth is worshiped above all else.

Those who know Logan's Run only through the 1976 film will be surprised by the difference between the two. Of necessity, the filmmakers had to trim the story and streamline the plot.  They also had to narrow the world down to a single, self-contained city cut off from the world by a nuclear holocaust that culled its population for reasons of stability.  The cinematic version is also much cleaner and brighter–probably to show up the hedonistic nature of the place and contrasting its darker meaning.  Logan's world in the novel is gritty and dangerous; a place of jet-broom gypsies and Arctic penal colonies.  And Logan himself is, in many ways, a cold and dangerous character who only as the story progresses starts to turn against his wasteful and nihilistic society.

That being said, the characters here are a bit flat, but that's as to be expected.  This is more Wizard of Oz than Brave New World and Logan and Jessica act more as the reader's stand-ins as they tour from one bizarre setting to the next, whether it's the deadly slum of Cathedral or the giant computer beneath Mount Rushmore or the robot recreation of the American Civil War.

The only real criticism is that Nolan and Johnson have trouble keeping their characters in focus.  Though they firmly establish that no one is over 21, too many characters act as though they're much older with much more history behind them.  They've put a lot of effort into their teenage world, but they seem to have forgotten that it's inhabited by teenagers.

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