The Coming Race

The Coming RaceThe Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I almost feel bad tearing this book apart, seeing as those before me did such a fantastic job, but I’ll just add my two cents anyway. That’s about all I would spare for this book.

In lieu of a plot, here’s the general premise of the story: a man gallavants around a mine and finds an underground world. Apparently, this mine had zero safety features in place and the boys working it found some sucker to explore a deep cavern that the professional miners were either too stupid or too afraid to check out. Visibly shaken by the discovery, he enlists the companionship of a friend to go back down and do some more exploring. Unfortunately, his friend kills himself on the way down, and (whatever his name was), we’ll call him tish is on his own. The shock and awe of actually finding an underground world apparently made tish forget about his friend, and left him smashed among the rocks while he was ushered into to this strange new world.

It was quite the advanced civilization, although they had no idea that an upper world was just a hop, skip and a jump above them. We’ll just assume that this was the first mine ever dug and that’s why the civilization had yet to be discovered. Despite their proclivity for annihilating anything that doesn’t resemble them in every way, they not only welcome the savage tish, but proceeded to educate him in all the secrets of their advanced civilization, including their history, which was not unlike us savages above. Lytton must have been a vegetarian. Their progenitors ate animals and shortened their lives? Who came to that conclusion? After all, they were presumably refugees at that time and wouldn’t likely have expertise available to draw such a conclusion. But, they were advanced. Probably figured that out later. Yeah, that’s it.

What put these folks over the top though, was not their intelligence, not their strength, not their powers of reason, but the awesome power of the vril. The vril was an all-purpose power equally useful for destruction as it was for creating. It was a discovery that heralded peace amongst this civilization. Since everyone had the uber-destructive Vrril power, there was no fear of anyone using it. We know that is flawed logic. We know there are those willing to die if they can take you with them. Not in this place. What a relief that must have been!

Nobody was jealous of another’s success, that exceeded theirs. Everyone just “did their own thing.” Yet more flawed logic. Not sure where Lytton got this; or maybe he just wished the world was full of wealthy Marxists. Then again, the idea of being turned into cigarette ash was sure to keep people in line. Apparently, it kept everyone in line in this place. One of the reasons may have been that men didn’t have the stones they should have had in that place. They seemed to have very low testosterone, both in their appearance and behavior. In fact, it is the women that are in charge. Being seven feet tall with the strength of an ox didn’t hurt. Lytton suggests that in historical lore, men fled in terror when one of them as killed by a woman. Evern when the girls promised it would never happen again, most men stayed away and…apparently became gay. That, or remained celibate for life. Lytton gave no indication that happened. They remained in other communities and “were caught up” by other males. We get the picture Ed. Although women are in charge in this place, for whatever reason, the girls are married off at 16 and the guys can hammer away until 20. And once the dominant woman is married, she pretty much gives up her life for his. And he…can take a second spouse if he feels the urge. She just has to sit and take it. How women in that society would even pursue marriage is anyone’s guess. Why would they?

Children are something else altogether. No child labor laws in this place. They do all the work, and that includes killing (barbarians, unwieldy wild animals, etc.). Maybe even a tish. Not this one though. But these Children of the Corn are apparently able to set all that killing aside when they get older. Well, they can only hope. With the equality this civilization thinks they have acheived, there is still a hierarchy, still somebody in charge. After all, who gives the hit orders to the kids? They have a treasury and collect taxes, but since anybody can do whatever the hell they want, how any commerce occurs is anybody’s guess. Children aren’t going to get anything done unless someone is cracking the whip, but according to Lytton, that NEVER happens.

As if the premise for this mess wasn’t defective enough, Lytton goes off on what seem to be obvious cocaine fueled rants, not unlike Herman Melville in Moby Dick. In fact, the style is distressingly similar, and I emphasize “distressing.” Some parts were written less like a novel and more like a college thesis, complete with references from obscure texts. Then Lytton went off on a mindbendingly boring treatise on a language that doesn’t exist. Is there a plot to this story? Is this a story? I nearly put this piece of shit down. But I didn’t. I wanted to know why Hitler got such a kick out of this book, and unfortunately, I kind of got an idea. This benevolent race was SEVERELY prejudiced against any tribe not like them. The “youth” was working for the cause. The barbarians were eliminated (by kids don’t you know). Taxes were high, but nobody bitched. Remember, vril=ashes.

[t]he richer each individual is, and the larger the sum contributed to the general treasury,- above all, the happier and the more tranquil is the whole political body, and the more perfect the products of its industry-

So, the more taxed we are, the happier we’ll all be. Well, somebody had to have come up with this scheme, although Lytton insists nobody is above another. By his own words that can’t be true.

“Alas,” said Zee, “this predominance of the few over the many is the surest and most fatal sign of a race incorrigibly savage. See you not that the primary condition of mortal happiness consists in the extinction of that strife and competition between individuals, which, no matter what forms of government they adopt, render the many subordinate to the few, destroy real liberty to the individual, whatever may be the nominal liberty of the state, and annul that calm of existence, without which, felicity, mental or bodily, cannot be attained?”

So the only real liberty, is nobody having liberty. ???? If you are trying (and succeeding) to be the best you can be, then you will no doubt show up a lesser person and that is unacceptable to the vrils. Again, SOMEBODY was in charge. Just not you.

Each of us obeys without question the command of the Turs…even though nobody is above another… Uh…score one for the Turs.

Just a non stop stream of staggering boredom. Just had to throw that in there.

Lytton initially attempts to make a case that bland “equality” is the preferred society (we have to assume he believes this, because this is the book; there is no story per se), although in his own descriptions, the vril absolutely do not walk the walk. somebody is the boss, and they’ll crush any civilization that fucks with them-but all for the common good you see. The folly of any society that forsakes individuality-and in the end, it’s all about individuality, isn’t it? However, he crushes the concept of equality in the end. The Vril-ya apparently forgot that us beings are goal striving organisms, and socialistic, bland equality just won’t work. Well, it wouldn’t work there either, without the threat of vril annihilation.

I will say that this review is much more exciting than the book, and I don’t see words jumping off the page here. Is this book a warning as to the perils of “equality,” or an advocation of it? Is this book really genius and an obliteration of the doctrine that would be know as communism? Equal, bland, and chew your arm off bored. I ran away screaming from this book, but…maybe that was the point. I gave it two stars, but maybe in my ignorance I failed to give it the five stars it deserved. Well…I’m sticking with two stars.

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