15 December 2004

In an interesting novel depicting the rise and fall of an unscrupulous networker, the story is set in the remote future, when universal peace has been firmly established, on a psychological basis. Scientists have studied those elements in human character which can lead to subversion, dissension, rebellion, and war. There is a great organization devoted to the surveillance of humanity, and to the eradication of such destructive traits. The central character is one of those employed by the Organization who volunteers to furnish reports on his colleagues. The opening of the story finds him setting out for his office, having been officially summoned for a meeting. He is a cocky fellow and he is confident that he is going to be given some kind of medal for his brilliant reports. In fact his superiors have found, in the tone and language of these reports, the very characteristics -- deviousness, individualism -- against which they are pledged to uphold the ramparts of society. The only thing they are in doubt about is whether to liquidate him or give him "a new personality." Finally they decide on the latter course. By various methods, they eradicate his memory and build up a new one in his brain, with a different name, a different job, a different home-town, a different family. Yet, he continued to furnish reports, but on new colleagues. At the Organization, they read the reports very carefully. The first few seem all right but -- there it is again! -- in the latest report, a touch of the old deviousness, conceit about self and flawed judgement. A new leadership committee takes over. It has no doubt about him: this time he will be terminated. He is summoned to headquarters. The last scene finds him on his way, content in the illusion that he is about to be awarded some kind of medal.