Ring Around the Sun

by Clifford D. Simak
Reviewed date: 2009 Jun 19
Rating: 2
200 pages
cover art

It's been over two years since I've read a Simak. Man! That's bad. I like Simak. Ring Around the Sun isn't my favorite, but it's a decent read.

As usual for Simak's stories, the main character is an ordinary man. Jay Vickers is a struggling writer who has never felt at home in this world. He is accused of belonging to a mysterious organization that is ruining the world economy by flooding it with cheap, durable goods: a razor that never dulls, a cigarette lighter that never wears out and never needs refilling, a Forever car that never needs maintenance and will outlast its owner. To save his own skin, Vickers investigates and discovers an epic conspiracy.

The mysterious organization is a group of mutants living among humanity. They are destroying the world economy with the intent to rebuild and reshape mankind into a gentler, more peaceful race. The combined businesses of Earth--who pull enough strings to control all the world governments (there's another conspiracy for you!)--threaten to strike back by starting a nuclear war. Vickers gets caught in the middle. The mutants are after him, and the businessmen of Earth think Vickers is a mutant.

Vickers discovers that the mutants can travel at will between Earth and alternate Earths. The alternate Earths are separated form Earth by time: a second before, a second after. There are an infinite number of alternate Earths, all unpopulated and ready for the taking. Further, Vickers discovers he too can slip into these alternate Earths; he is a mutant.

I kept waiting for Vickers to wake up and realize that the mutants are evil, that they are arrogant and driven by hubris. Who are they to decide that mankind must be reshaped? Who are they to determine the limits of a new society? But he doesn't. He accepts the mutants as the next evolutionary advancement of mankind, and helps them achieve their goal of reshaping humanity as they see fit.

I guess it's supposed to be a happy ending. The mutants win, and all of humanity is the better. But I don't agree. The mutants have sabotaged a whole world, a whole race. The mutants believe they are an evolutionary advancement over regular humanity, and they believe this gives them the right to make decisions for each and every regular human being. What about freedom and liberty? What about private property rights? What about the right to self-government and self-determination? Apparently that only applies to mutants, not to poor stupid humans.

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