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The Fixed Period is a novel written by Anthony Trollope and is like no other he ever wrote.
Anthony Trollope was one of the most popular and prolific authors in the mid decades of the 19th century and his most famous works are the Barchester chronicles and The Man Who Knew Too Much. His novels tend to be set in and around the drawing rooms and hunting scenes of the wealthy Victorians.
The Fixed Period
The concept of this novel is simple yet beautifully complex at the same time, in a distant time (at the writing of the novel) 0f 1980 a small English colony called Britannula decides to set an age for compulsory euthanasia at 67. Britannula is set on a small island somewhere near New Zealand and is wealthy, independent with a culture based on sheep farming. The colony whilst independent has kept British customs and money, and views itself as a superior model to the homeland as they have kept the purity of the British idyll whilst Britain has slipped away into a moral abyss (this moral slide is never fully explained).
Britannula has decided to become Presidential and has an elected President called NeverBend, NeverBend is a fierce supporter of the programme of voluntary euthanasia, he is 57 and the first test case comes along in the shape of Gabriel Crasswaller. Gabriel is a supporter of the President but as he approaches suddenly finds birth certificates supporting his assertion that he is in fact only 66. The pair are now set on course for collision but events conspire to change the fixed period and the future of both men.
This is a strange little novel; it only covers around 180 pages and is completely different to anything else Trollope wrote. It would be easy to say it's a simple piece of HG Wells's science fiction dystopia but this novel was written 1882 well before Wells wrote anything. The novel covers many aspects of life satirising many, he particularly looks at how society can easily discount a man over the age of 60 as being culturally devoid of life. The point about the state supporting any person once they have stopped work is also made fun off, if only gently. The concept of a set time of death and therefore a society without the financial burden of a set of 70, 80, 90+ year olds is both advocated by the position of Neverbend with he contrasting position advocated by Grasswaller of a bank of the populace with years of skills and knowledge to pass on to their heirs.
This final point is becoming more important to me as I'm getting older and so is my granddad, I was watching football just after Christmas when Leeds played Tottenham in the cup at Elland Road and he said "You know I think it was 61 years almost to the day when I played against Leeds at Elland Road for Grimsby Town in a fourth round FA cup match" I knew he'd played football professionally but didn't know he'd played against Leeds then he added "John Charles got the only goal, I should have been marking him at a corner but he out jumped me". Anyway I digress but you get the Crasswellian point of life not stopping at 67.
There is also the concept of greed, of waiting for death by the younger elements of society so they can inherit and this is portrayed by Crasswellians all too eager soon to be son in law Abraham Grundle. Grundle is the nominal bad guy in the book; he is clearly only after Gabriel's daughter to get Gabriel's money. Even NeverBend who should be the villain comes across as simply a man who believes in his ideas, he doesn't have anything personal against Gabriel and indeed the two are friends throughout.
There is also a definite early science fiction feel to the novel; there are strange machines like the swivel guns and steam tricycles. There are elements used in the film Logan's Run but there is humour too with the lines by Gabriel about not feeling the scythe on ones neck too quickly and that 67 is too young to become old fashioned.
This is a very early proto science fiction novel attempting social dystopia and complex human interactions, more famous novels would follow this genre but this is a decent attempt by a master author. This novel is quite hard to get hold off but most libraries will have a copy if you can wait for it to be ordered.