DESPERATE GAMES by Pierre Boulle

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Pierre Boulle, noted author of books like The Bridge on the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes, passed away in 1994. Among his other works is a dystopian science fiction novel of a world controlled by pure scientists translated and recently reissued.Dys

Boulle postulates scientists from all over the world getting together and deciding that all the problems that exist on earth are due to leaders who do not understand what they are doing, that they are men and women with no grounding in science and lack the perspective of what people really need. The physical scientists propose that they take over all governments on earth and have the current leaders step down and just enjoy life without the stress of governing.

Said and done, the scientists quickly choose a president by a method of formal testing, along with advisers and other officers. All governments are disbanded and countries are consolidated into a world wide organization. The scientists begin working on eradicating the pressures of disease, strife and conflict quickly allowing all mankind to work less and have more.

The required workday is cut to about 2 hours with plenty of time for recreation and rest. The new leaders, the physical scientists, believe that they have achieved the optimum conditions for all the planet’s inhabitants and everyone is happy with the new status quo.

In a short time it is noted that the rate of suicides has gone up and it is quickly determined that these are due to the lack of challenges for the people. The scientists decide that they will provide games to entertain similar to those held in the ancient world, namely fights to the death between trained individuals. This works for a short time until the rate of suicides again climbs.

The answer, of course, is to increase the participation and number of fatalities in the games. Continuing on to staging great battles based on real incidents fought throughout history, namely massive assaults such as the D-Day invasion of Normandy and the world war I battle of the Marne.

While the tone of the book is tongue in cheek and has some similarities to Animal Farm, it can also be taken as a serious condemnation of allowing any group to achieve absolute power without normal checks and balances. It was true while Boulle was alive, and just as true today where philosophies of one group are forced on others causing strife and war. If the book had received more publicity at the time Boulle wrote it it has the potential to be part of works like 1984 and Animal Farm and taken it’s place as a classic example of power run amok.

2/15 Paul Lane

DESPERATE GAMES by Pierre Boulle. Hesperus Press (January 1, 2015). ISBN: 978-1843915355. 208p.

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