Inverted World (New York Review Books Classics)
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The city is winched along tracks through a devastated land full of hostile tribes. Rails must be freshly laid ahead of the city and carefully removed in its wake. Rivers and mountains present nearly insurmountable challenges to the ingenuity of the city’s engineers. But if the city does not move, it will fall farther and farther behind the “optimum” into the crushing gravitational field that has transformed life on Earth. The only alternative to progress is death.
The secret directorate that governs the city makes sure that its inhabitants know nothing of this. Raised in common in crèches, nurtured on synthetic food, prevented above all from venturing outside the closed circuit of the city, they are carefully sheltered from the dire necessities that have come to define human existence. And yet the city is in crisis. The people are growing restive, the population is dwindling, and the rulers know that, for all their efforts, slowly but surely the city is slipping ever farther behind the optimum.
Helward Mann is a member of the city’s elite. Better than anyone, he knows how tenuous is the city’s continued existence. But the world—he is about to discover—is infinitely stranger than the strange world he believes he knows so well.
administrative jobs in the city. I was tempted to go in and take their questions in my stride, maintaining a mysterious silence. There was no segregation of the sexes in the crèche, and in each room I peered into I searched for a sight of Victoria; she did not appear to be there. When I had checked all the classrooms I went down to the general area: the dining-hall (here there was background noise of the midday meal being prepared), the gymnasium (empty), and the tiny open space, which gave
her hand lightly across my chest. “It’s all the work I’m doing,” I said, and began to unbutton her clothes. As a consequence of this change in our plans it wasn’t until some time later that Victoria took my clothes away to be laundered, leaving me to enjoy the comforts of a proper bed. After we had eaten some lunch we discovered that the way to the platform was now open, and so we moved up there. This time we were not alone; two men from the education administration were there before us. They
passed, and a video record of its physical appearance. This would then be submitted to the council of Navigators and they, with the help of other surveyors’ reports, would decide which route would be taken. Towards late afternoon, Denton stopped for about the sixth time and erected his tripod. After he had taken angular readings on the elevation of the surrounding hills, and, by use of a gyroscopically mounted compass, had determined true north, he attached a free-swinging pendulum to the base
had unconsciously adopted this manner myself, and at first I suppose I might have seemed diffident in his company. Within a few minutes, though, I found his forthright manner relaxing, and soon I felt as if we were old friends. I told him I had made a video recording of the sun. “Did you wipe it?” “What do you mean?” “Erase it from the tape.” “No . . . should I have?” He laughed. “You’ll have the Navigators down on you if they see it. You’re not supposed to use the tapes for anything except
treatments which, had she not suspected the reason, she would have found humiliating. She was bathed, and her hair was washed. She was medically examined, her eyes were tested, her teeth were checked. Her hair and scalp were inspected for infestation, and she was given a test which she could only imagine was to determine whether or not she had VD. Without surprise, the woman supervising the examination passed her with a clean bill of health—of the ten girls, Elizabeth was the only one who was so