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June 2008
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Return to the Future, by Diamandis Florakis (1973)

31,450,670. No, that's not a mistranslated title to Alfred Bester's famous story, "5,271,009." It's the actual name of the protagonist of the debut novel by a talented Greek sf author who is, sadly, little-known in Anglophone territories. Diamandis Florakis, still with us today, produced ten novels in his "Decalogy of Eschatological Utopia," or, to employ his other series designation, "Ten Romances of Existential Anarchy." (My thanks to friend and editor Angelos Mastorakis for help with this research.) If subsequent volumes rival the first, it's a monumental accomplishment.

Our numerically named hero (colonized planets, days of the week, and regions of the globe are all designated with equal blandness) lives in "computer generation 2,354," an era thousands of years removed from ours. Thanks to the discovery of the nexus of evil in the human brain in generation 1,355 and the perfection of an operation for its removal, a "utopia of ethical and material paradise" now reigns—at least so believes the High Quotient, the leader of the human race. But if so, why are suicides exponentially increasing, as the populace's "feeling 1" ratings plummet?

When 31,450,670 discovers that his operation was faulty and that he possesses all the old vices—including murderousness—a battle ensues for the soul of humanity.

With a definite Age of Aquarius vibe, the novel still remains timely, pondering such eternal conundrums as this: "Murdering, they spoke of peace; in envisioning peace, they warred." Stylistically reminiscent of Zamiatin, Lem, Bunch, and van Vogt, the book reads like the libretto for the next great rock opera by the Flaming Lips.

—Paul Di Filippo

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