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The Four Day Weekend

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Priory, Israel, 197?
(originally published by Belmont, 1966)
price: 25p; 160 pages

The blurb on the back:

It was impossible, of course, because the machines had been ruling everything for 100 years, so what could they revolt against?
They decided people had outlived their usefulness to them, and that genocide of 4 billion people on Planet Earth was the best policy.
And into this incredible situation Charles Henry Hyde was thrust, with a shrew of a wife named Agnes who nagged like it was 1966...

opening lines:
'Is your mask on straight?' Agnes Hyde asked, sounding more like a drill sergeant than a wife.

Science fiction is pretty well covered on the 'Net, unlike many of the other areas dealt with on this site, so when I do a Google search for this book and come up with an almost total blank, I have to conclude that it's not very highly rated.

Which doesn't entirely surprise me, because it's not really a major artistic achievement, even though it is quite fun.

We're in the 21st century, when cars have become true auto-mobiles, controlled by computers, and our hero is Charles Henry Hyde, an advertising copywriter who finds himself the leader of the counter-revolution when the cars decide to rise up against the irrational humans. The proposition that the cars' computers acquire intelligence and become conscious is intriguing and even more relevant than it was thirty-seven years ago, but it requires a much larger canvas than this to do it justice. The transformation of Hyde from hen-pecked husband to freedom fighter is sketchy while the resolution (together with the chicken-shit explanation of the cars' revolt) is deeply unsatisfactory.

Even so, there is some entertainment in here. The US senator obsessed with fighting communists (and having to explain to everyone what communism is) is fun, and I loved the island occupied by those worshipping at the shrine of Beat:

'Like crazy man!' a voice said. 'You made the scene like nobody ever made it before.'
From the dirty sweatshirt and long hair and beard of the man clamboring over the side of the Mary Lou, Charles Henry knew this must be a beatnik. Only such out of the way places as San Marco were sanctuaries for the ancient religious cult. (p.78)

The title, incidentally, refers to the long weekend of Independence Day when the cars launch their assault on the American way of life.

Additional note: A regular correspondent, Ian Covell, who frequently sheds light onto these things for me, points out that George H Smith also wrote under the name Jan Hudson, as well as Diana Summers and Robert Hadley.


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