Review of ‘This Perfect Day’ by Ira Levin

An unusual dystopian novel from the author of Rosemary’s Baby. I would describe it as the child of Brave New World and the sibling of A Clockwork Orange. I’m not sure how influential it has been on later dystopian fiction, or if it’s well-known, but certainly some aspects seem familiar.

The book is set in a future where no one has the freedom of choice, although they are artificially free of aggression, curiosity, passion and other human traits. Everything from careers to reproduction to social visits are controlled by a computer system which is revered as a god. The protagonist, Chip, is led to question how society is run. He’s in contact with a group of rebels who have a plan to resist the ‘treatments’, drugs which keep people compliant and happy. The novel focuses on how he formulates an escape and finds out the truth.

I think the most interesting message of the story is that if the striving for equality is pushed too far, we will end up with a society based on eugenics. The people (or as they are called, Family members) in this novel, or at least those controlled by the computer, all look more or less the same. Genetic background was the only obstacle in the way of complete equality and the scientists of each generation refine the genes of the next.

I appreciated what the story was trying to say and there were a couple of good twists near the end. However, the writing style didn’t really grip me. It felt stilted somehow, although maybe it was deliberate to reflect the emotionless dystopian world. There was also a rape scene, which was a horrible surprise. If you didn’t even like the protagonist to begin with, you certainly won’t like him after that.

A novel more valuable for its concepts than for the characters, settings and writing style. I’m not sure if I recommend it, but if you’re interested in dystopian fiction then it’s one to check out.

First published in 1970. This edition published by Corsair in 2014 with an introduction by Jonathan Trigell.

7 thoughts on “Review of ‘This Perfect Day’ by Ira Levin”

    1. Definitely worth a read if you are a completist 🙂 I have another of his, A Kiss Before Dying, on my shelf.

  1. I agree. It started good, but when I got to that *rape scene* I wanted to stop reading. I actually could not believe what I was reading. It was presented so very out of the blue and even “innocently” and that made it so much worse. The second part was much nonsense, too. Callum asks how it ranks among Levin’s other works and I ranked this book low indeed, next to last of all his books, in fact, and that maybe because the sequel to Rosemary’s Baby is just one book that shouldn’t exist and This Perfect Day had some good dystopian ideas, as you also point out.

    1. I hadn’t heard of this book before but a friend lent me it, saying it was a good read. I have a few more Levin books to read, it’s interesting to know you rank it next to last! And I’m pretty sure I won’t read Son of Rosemary. I think This Perfect Day is worth reading for 20th century ideas of dystopia if you’re really into the topic but it’s not at all enjoyable. It could have been so much better done.

  2. I love this book, it’s probably my favorite novel. Levin creates a compelling world. It’s imaginative, well-written, and thoroughly engaging. I was happy to see it back in print because my old copy had literally fallen apart.

    1. That’s interesting that it may be your favourite. Out of the Levins I have read, Rosemary’s Baby is the one I would re-read.

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