334 (novel) - Plot Summary

Plot Summary

The future in 334 has brought few technological advances except for new medical techniques and recreational drugs. There have been no dramatic disasters, but overpopulation has made housing and other resources scarce; the response is a program of compulsory birth control and eugenics. A welfare state provides for basic needs through an all-encompassing agency called MODICUM, but there is an extreme class division between welfare recipients and professionals.

The novel consists of five independent novellas (previously published separately) with a common setting but different characters, and a longer sub-novel called "334" whose many short sections trace the members of a single family forward and backward in time. The sections are as follows:

  • "The Death of Socrates": A high-school student finds that, due to poor scores on his Regents Examinations and his father's health history, he has been permanently forbidden to have children; he searches for ways to get extra credit.
  • "Bodies": Porters at Bellevue Hospital moonlight as body-snatchers catering to a necrophiliac brothel. Their task is complicated by the desire of some patients to be cryonically preserved for a better future.
  • "Everyday Life in the Later Roman Empire": A privileged government worker, trying to decide where to send her son to school, pursues a parallel existence in a hallucinogen-assisted role-playing game set in the year 334.
  • "Emancipation: A Romance of the Times to Come": A young professional man and woman face marital conflicts and parenthood, with several twists unique to the 2020s.
  • "Angouleme": A group of highly educated prepubescent children decides to commit a gratuitous murder in Battery Park.
  • "334": Vignettes of the Hanson family from 2021 to 2025.

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