The World Inside (Signet SF, Q5176)

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9780451051769: The World Inside (Signet SF, Q5176)
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Welcome to Urban Monad 116. Reaching nearly two miles into the sky, the one thousand stories of this building are home to over eight hundred thousand people living in peace and harmony. In the year 2381 with a world population of over seventy-five billion souls, the massive Urbmon system is humanity's salvation. Life in Urbmon 116 is highly regulated, life is cherished, and the culture of procreation is seen as the highest pinnacle of god's plan. Conflict is abhorred, and any who disturb the peace face harsh punishment-even being sent "down the chute" to be recycled as fertilizer. Jason Quevedo, a historian, searches records of the twentieth century hoping to find the root of his discontent with the perfection of Urbmon life. Siegmund Kluver, a young and ambitious administrator, strives to reach the top levels of the Urbmon's government and discovers the civilization's dark truths. Michael Statler, a computer engineer, harbors a forbidden desire. He dreams of leaving the building-of walking in the open air and visiting the far-off sea. This is a dream he must keep secret. If anyone were to find out, he'd face the worst punishment imaginable. The World Inside is a fascinating exploration of society and what makes us human, told by a master of speculative fiction. The World Inside is a 1971 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella.

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About the Author:

Winner of four Hugo Awards and five Nebula Awards, Robert Silverberg is one of the giants of science fiction and fantasy. A Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master, he has written countless short stories, nonfiction books, and novels, including Dying Inside, A Time of Changes, and the bestselling Lord Valentine's Castle. Silverberg lives in Oakland, California, with his wife, writer Karen Haber.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Here begins a happy day in 2381. The morning sun is high enough to touch the uppermost fifty stories of Urban Monad 116. Soon the building’s entire eastern face will glitter like the bosom of the sea at daybreak. Charles Mattern’s window, activated by the dawn’s early photons, deopaques. He stirs. God bless, he thinks. His wife yawns and stretches. His four children, who have been awake for hours, now can officially start their day. They rise and parade around the bedroom, singing:

God bless, god bless, god bless!
God bless us every one!
God bless Daddo, god bless Mommo, god bless you and me!
God bless us all, the short and tall,
Give us fer- til- i-tee!

They rush toward their parents’ sleeping platform. Mattern rises and embraces them. Indra is eight, Sandor is seven, Marx is five, Cleo is three. It is Charles Mattern’s secret shame that his family is so small. Can a man with only four children truly be said to have reverence for life? But Principessa’s womb no longer flowers. The medics have declared that she will not bear again. At twenty-seven she is sterile. Mattern is thinking of taking in a second woman. He longs to hear the yowls of an infant again; in any case, a man must do his duty to god.

Sandor says, “Daddo, Siegmund is still here.”

The child points. Mattern sees. On Principessa’s side of the sleeping platform, curled against the inflation pedal, lies fourteen-year-old Siegmund Kluver, who had entered the Mattern home several hours after midnight to exercise his rights of propinquity. Siegmund is fond of older women. He has become quite notorious in the past few months. Now he snores; he has had a good workout. Mattern nudges him. “Siegmund? Siegmund, it’s morning!” The young man’s eyes open. He smiles at Mattern, sits up, reaches for his wrap. He is quite handsome. He lives on the 787th floor and already has one child and another on the way.

“Sorry,” says Siegmund. “I overslept Principessa really drains me. A savage, she is!”

“Yes, she’s quite passionate,” Mattern agrees. So is Siegmund’s wife, Mamelon, according to what Mattern has heard. When she is a little older, Mattern plans to try her. Next spring, perhaps.

Siegmund sticks his head under the molecular cleanser. Principessa now has left the bed. Nodding faintly to her husband, she kicks the pedal and the platform deflates swiftly. She begins to program breakfast. Indra, reaching forth a pale, almost transparent little hand, switches on the screen. The wall blossoms with light and color. “Good morning,” says the screen heartily. “The external temperature, if anybody’s interested, is 28°. Today’s population figure at Urbmon 116 is 881,115, which is +102 since yesterday and +14,187 since the first of the year. God bless, but we’re slowing down! Across the way at Urbmon 117 they’ve added 131 since yesterday, including quads for Mrs. Hula Jabotinsky. She’s eigh teen and has had seven previous. A servant of god, isn’t she? The time is now 0620. In exactly forty minutes Urbmon 116 will be honored by the presence of Nicanor Gortman, the visiting sociocomputator from Hell, who can be recognized by his distinctive outbuilding costume in crimson and ultra violet. Dr. Gortman will be the guest of the Charles Mat-terns of the 799th floor. Of course we’ll treat him with the same friendly blessmanship we show one another. God bless Nicanor Gortman! Turning now to news from the lower levels of Urbmon 116—”

Principessa says, “Hear that, children? We’ll have a guest, and we must be blessworthy toward him. Come and eat.”

When he has cleansed himself, dressed, and breakfasted, Charles Mattern goes to the thousandth- .oor landing stage to meet Nicanor Gortman. As he rises through the building to the summit, Mattern passes the .oors on which his brothers and sisters and their families live. Three brothers, three sisters. Four of them younger than he, two older. All quite successful. One brother died, unpleasantly, young. Jeffrey. Mattern rarely thinks of Jeffrey. Now he is passing through the .oors that make up Louisville, the administrative sector. In a moment he will meet his guest. Gortman has been touring the tropics and is about to visit a typical urban monad in the temperate zone. Mattern is honored to have been named the of.cial host. He steps out on the landing stage, which is at the very tip of Urbmon 116. A force- .eld shields him from the .erce winds that sweep the lofty spire. He looks to his left and sees the western face of Urban Monad 115 still in darkness. To his right, Urbmon 117’s eastern windows sparkle. Bless Mrs. Hula Jabotinsky and her eleven littles, Mattern thinks. Mattern can see other urbmons in the row, stretching on and on toward the horizon, towers of superstressed concrete three kilometers high, tapering ever so gracefully. It is a thrilling sight. God bless, he thinks. God bless, god bless, god bless!

He hears a cheerful hum of rotors. A quickboat is landing. Out steps a tall, sturdy man dressed in high- spectrum garb. He must surely be the visiting sociocomputator from Hell.

“Nicanor Gortman?” Mattern asks.

“Bless god. Charles Mattern?”

“God bless, yes. Come.”

Hell is one of the eleven cities of Venus, which man has reshaped to suit himself. Gortman has never been on Earth before. He speaks in a slow, stolid way, no lilt in his voice at all; the in.ection reminds Mattern of the way they talk in Urbmon 84, which Mattern once visited on a .eld trip. He has read Gortman’s papers: solid stuff, closely reasoned. “I particularly liked ‘Dynamics of the Hunting Ethic,’ ” Mattern tells him while they are in the dropshaft. “Remarkable. A revelation.”

“You really mean that?” Gortman asks, flattered.

“Of course. I try to keep up with the better Venusian journals. It’s so fascinating to read about alien customs. Such as hunting wild animals.”

“There are none on Earth?”

“God bless, no,” Mattern says. “We couldn’t allow that! But I love gaining insight into different ways of life.”

“My essays are escape literature for you?” asks Gortman.

Mattern looks at him strangely. “I don’t understand the reference.”

“Escape literature. What you read to make life on Earth more bearable for yourself.”

“Oh, no. Life on Earth is quite bearable, let me assure you. There’s no need for escape literature. I study offworld journals for amusement. And to obtain a necessary parallax, you know, for my own work,” says Mattern. They have reached the 799th level. “Let me show you my home .rst.” He steps from the drop- shaft and beckons to Gortman. “This is Shanghai. I mean, that’s what we call this block of forty .oors, from 761 to 800. I’m in the next- to- top level of Shanghai, which is a mark of my professional status. We’ve got twenty- .ve cities altogether in Urbmon 116. Reykjavik’s on the bottom and Louisville’s on the top.”

“What determines the names?”

“Citizen vote. Shanghai used to be Calcutta, which I personally prefer, but a little bunch of malcontents on the 778th floor rammed through a referendum in ’75.”

“I thought you had no malcontents in the urban monads,” Gortman says.

Mattern smiles. “Not in the usual sense. But we allow certain conflicts to exist. Man wouldn’t be man without conflicts, eh? Even here. Eh?”

They are walking down the eastbound corridor toward Mattern’s home. It is now 0710, and children are streaming from their apartments in groups of three and four, rushing to get to school Mattern waves to them. They sing as they run along. Mattern says, “We average 6.2 children per family on this .oor. It’s one of the lowest figures in the building, I have to admit. High-status people don’t seem to breed well. They’ve got a floor in Prague—I think it’s 117— that averages 9.9 per family! Isn’t that glorious?”

“You are speaking with irony?” Gortman asks.

“Not at all.” Mattern feels an uptake of tension. “We like children. We approve of breeding. Surely you realized that before you set out on this tour of—”

“Yes, yes,” says Gortman, hastily. “I was aware of the general cultural dynamic. But I thought perhaps your own attitude—”

“Ran counter to norm? Just because I have a scholar’s detachment, you shouldn’t assume that I disapprove in any way of my cultural matrix. Perhaps you’re guilty of projecting your own disapproval, eh?”

“I regret the implication. And please don’t think I feel the slightest negative attitudes in relation to your matrix, although I admit your world seems quite strange to me. Bless god, let us not have strife, Charles.”

“God bless, Nicanor. I didn’t mean to seem touchy.”

They smile. Mattern is dismayed by his show of irritability.

Gortman says, “What is the population of the 799th floor?”

“805, last I heard.”

“And of Shanghai?”

“About 33,000.”

“And of Urbmon 116?”


“And there are fifty urban monads in this constellation of houses?”


“Making some 40,000,000 people,” Gortman says. &ldquo...

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Robert Silverberg
Published by New American Library (1972)
ISBN 10: 0451051769 ISBN 13: 9780451051769
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