Sacred Texts  Utopia 


by Jack London

New York, Grosset & Dunlap


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Somewhat similar in structure to Donnelly's Cæsar's Column, The Iron Heel is a novel of a grim 20th Century future and how it came to be that way. However, London is a much better novelist than Donnelly, and he is at the top of his form here. There are three separate narratives in this book: the story of how a brutal oligarchy seizes power in the United States; a love story centering on the narrator, the wife of the revolutionary hero; and a running commentary in the footnotes from the perspective of a post-capitalist civilization. This is one book where it pays to read the footnotes, which are set hundreds of years in the future; as well as tying up loose ends, they have to explain such obsolete concepts as private property, factory whistles, and prize fighting.

There is the usual expository section where the viewpoint of each social strata is weighed in turn; London manages keep the interest during this section. Then there is the obligatory revolutionary action sequence: he evokes the failed 'Chicago Commune' uprising with style. Real persons including Upton Sinclair and W.R.Hearst appear in the historical narrative; these are intertwined with a cast of memorable fictional characters.

London does not make many technological predictions; (he does, however, predict an attack on Pearl Harbor--by Germans--as a capitalist ruse to start a world war!). This is a novel of 'if this goes on...', one of the best ever, rivaling Orwell's 1984 for literary and historical significance. It also compares well with latter day science fiction Utopia/Dystopia stories such as Ursula LeGuins' The Dispossessed.

Title Page
Chapter I: My Eagle
Chapter II: Challenges
Chapter III: Jackson's Arm.
Chapter IV: Slaves of the Machine
Chapter V: The Philomaths
Chapter VI: Adumbrations
Chapter VII: The Bishop's Vision
Chapter VIII: The Machine Breakers
Chapter IX: The Mathematics of a Dream
Chapter X: The Vortex
Chapter XI: The Great Adventure
Chapter XII: The Bishop
Chapter XIII: The General Strike
Chapter XIV: The Beginning of the End
Chapter XV: Last Days
Chapter XVI: The End
Chapter XVII: The Scarlet Livery
Chapter XVIII: In the Shadow of Sonoma
Chapter XIX: Transformation
Chapter XX: A Lost Oligarch
Chapter XXI: The Roaring Abysmal Beast
Chapter XXII: The Chicago Commune
Chapter XXIII: The People of the Abyss
Chapter XXIV: Nightmare
Chapter XXV: The Terrorists