Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Iron Heel by Jack London

"In the wolf-struggle of those centuries, no man was permanently safe, no matter how much wealth he amassed. Out of fear for the welfare of their families men devised the scheme of insurance. To us, in this intelligent age, such a device is laughably absurd and primitive."

Having read other Jack London tales, this one comes as quite a shock. It reads more like a socialist manifesto in part. Delivering as it does a type of alternate history of a dystopian future as imagined by the author and first published in 1908.
There are, however, aspects of the novel that ring eerily true today in the days of global corporations, the narrowing of the middle class and the growing chasm between the haves and have nots.

Avis, through her blossoming relationship with Ernest, garners an increasing awareness of the desperate world around her as the novel continues on to its premature end.

I struggle to qualify this book as good, bad or indifferent. There are moments  of brilliance - such as the quote about insurance above, coupled with dry didactic styled writing that I found really difficult to focus on. This was, in part, I believe due to an expectation that labelled as science fiction ( as it is in many areas) I expected something different and more adventure in keeping with London's other famous works. On reflection, perhaps they are not so different after all. This is the tale of the struggle of the pack of man, as compared to say  The Call of the Wild  or  White Fang where he explores canine adventures. Perhaps my perception is coloured by my having read these other novels as a child and not seeing their deeper themes.

This is an interesting work, yet not one I'd gladly revisit.  3 out of 5 thought police might agree.

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