ritten in 1966 (just as overpopulation was becoming a known concern), this novel by Harry Harrison was the driving force behind the movie Soylent Green.
Focusing on the book (the whole cannibalism aspect is absent), we have detective Andy Rusch sharing a small tenement flat with Sol, a retired engineer who has cobbled together a bike-generator for their small fridge and TV. Andy has been assigned a case looking into the murder of a known racketeer – it’s thought to be the work of a new mob moving into New York (it’s actually the result of a frightened burglar who screwed up the job). Andy finds the racketeer’s apartment nothing short of heaven, including the “furniture”, a live-in girl named Shirl. Since the apartment is still paid for until the end of the month, Andy cohabits with the woman, who actually falls for the gritty detective. In the end, she follows him back to his squalid flat. Once Sol dies in a riot, a new family with too many kids is forcefully moved in with them. This proves too much for finer-things Shirl. She goes back to her call-girl ways. Andy’s life sinks lower when he solves the case that nobody cares about. Yes, it is a very bleak future (past?).
Yes, the movie is good, too, in it’s way. It did not carry the idea of a boiling hellhole that the city has become (I was amazed by how white Charton Heston’s shirts were). As mentioned, the Soylent Green reveal is absent. Instead, the book is more focused on Andy’s relationship, his crummy job, and what its like to really, really be wedged in with too many bodies. Claustrophobic in the extreme. Worth a read.