I listened to an audiobook of the classic science fiction novel “Logan’s Run” with the intention of reviewing it. However, I couldn’t evaluate the story on its own; I could only think of it in terms of the “Logan’s Run” movie, or more accurately, my decades-old memories of the movie. So, instead of issuing a rating, I will simply compare and contrast. The two stories have significant differences, but both feature Logan, a law enforcement officer who hunts “runners” – fugitives fleeing a mandatory euthanasia program.
The dystopias of both the book and the movie solve the problem of resource scarcity by killing their citizens who reach a certain age: 21 in the book, 30 in the movie. These are sort of “happy” dystopias, the people have food, clothing, shelter, and entertainment; the only downside being death at the specified age. I prefer the movie version; the recent political controversies surrounding healthcare in the USA make it easy to imagine a society that kills its people as they begin to need medical treatment. I’ve also done some teaching in the past few years, and feel that a society run by those under 21 would collapse within months. However, both dystopias are managed by artificial intelligences, so perhaps either could work.
In the movie, the people going to their deaths have a religious belief that they can “renew” (be reborn in a new body). In the book, the euphemism “sleep” is used for the deaths, but I got the impression the people knew it was really death; the characters talk about it as a civic obligation. At first, I thought they were putting the people into some sort of cryo-stasis to be unthawed in a better future, this would have been an interesting sci-fi twist; an even better one might have been if people had been told there were cryo chambers, but there weren’t. Again, I prefer the movie version; maybe it’s my recent experience with the age group, but I imagine a large percentage of 21 year olds would run if all that motivated them to stay was their civic duty.
In both stories, Logan is hunting for “Sanctuary”, the place runners try to escape to. In the book, Logan just takes off independently on his 21st birthday, trying to accomplish one last mission. The movie version is much more interesting: Logan (who is not yet 30) is sent on a covert mission to pose as a runner and locate sanctuary. The AI changes his hand-chip from red to black (the color used to visually identify 30-year-olds). In one of the best scenes of the movie, Logan asks the AI if he will get his years back at the end of the mission, and receives no answer – only silence.
I also enjoyed the flow of the movie more than that of the book. In the book, Logan seems to encounter a series of homicidal characters more or less at random, while the movie seems much more structured. One example is the encounter with the robotic/cyborg character named Boggs or Box (I only heard the name, didn’t read it). In the book, a rail system malfunction sends Logan to a prison, where he must first fight a prisoner in a duel to the death, then encounters the sociopathic cyborg killer while trying to escape. In the movie, the cyborg is a food processor; he used to clean and freeze fish, but when the fish stopped arriving, he began freezing the other protein that was delivered to him: the runners seeking sanctuary. It is a powerfully sad moment when you realize that the entire sanctuary movement was only sending runners to a different kind of execution. Logan is the first runner to carry a gun, and thus the first to survive.
There was only one element I liked better in the book than the movie: the “cubs”. These are some younger kids, who in both stories represent a deadly threat and occupy a separate area of the city where sane people do not venture. In the book, the cubs are dangerous because they take drugs which make them incredibly fast and strong. I don’t remember any rationale in the movie, but it’s possible I’ve just forgotten, or that there was some drug reference I was too young to comprehend.
The book and movie have radically different endings, but I don’t think I need to introduce any further spoilage; I clearly enjoyed the movie more than the book. I was quite surprised at this outcome; with no evidence or reasoning to back me up, I tend to automatically assume that the book will be better than the movie. Does anyone else feel this way, either with or without a reason? I also suspect I might have a psychological characteristic which causes me to prefer the first version of something I’m shown to the second version; do you think you have a bias one way or the other?
There are two sequels to the novel:
The movie spawned a TV series: