Pohl and Kornbluth’s’s sharp satire of the consumer society and corporate corruption of government is as relevant today as when it was first published 50 years ago. “Gladiator at law” describes a possible future for the 1950s in which the working and middle classes are kept under control by the threat of losing their job and with it their tied housing–and the unemployed masses are kept quiescent with bread and circuses, Roman style. Reality tv may not have gone quite as far as the entertainment for the proles depicted in this novel, and science fiction is an exploration of possible futures rather than a prediction of an actual future, but Pohl and Kornbluth’s depiction of one of those potential futures is uncomfortably close to present day reality.
There are some nicely drawn characters, and a realistic look at the hazards of battling powerful vested interests — while there is a happy ending, it comes at a price. The novel is short by today’s standards, but a good read, and well worth hunting down a copy at a reasonable price.
GLADIATOR AT LAW at amazon.com
Gladiator-at-law (Classic Science Fiction S.) at amazon.co.uk
Gladiator-at-law (Gollancz hardcover) at amazon.co.uk