In 1992, American writer Ira Levin won a Prometheus Award for This Perfect Day
, a science fiction novel, which tells the story of a technocratic dystopia.
The world Levin has created is run by a central computer called UniComp, often referred to simply as Uni. The computer has been programmed to monitor every human on earth to make sure that they are acting in accordance with the law. People are given monthly treatments—drugs meant to keep them complacent and cooperative. There is no such thing as free will—everyone is told where to live, when to eat, whom to marry, and when to reproduce. They are also assigned a job for which they will be trained. Each person is also assigned a counselor who acts as a mentor, someone they can talk to, as well as a parole officer. Any violations against other members of the society commonly referred to as “brothers” and “sisters,” is to be reported at a weekly confessional. Each person is outfitted with a permanent bracelet that acts as an identifier. Scanners interact with the bracelets to let the individuals know what they are allowed to do.
The protagonist of the novel is Li RM35M4419, also known as Chip. Chip is born with one brown eye and one green eye, which automatically sets him apart from the others. Through his grandfather’s teachings, Chip learns to play a game of “wanting things,” where he imagines, among other things, what career he would choose if the choice was his to make. Chip’s advisor discourages this behavior, telling Chip that choosing for oneself is a symptom of selfishness. Chip does his best to forget his dreams and conform to the social norms.
Chip grows up and takes on the career he is assigned, and for the most part, is a good citizen. He does commit minor subversive acts, such as nabbing art materials for a fellow nonconformist. Chip soon catches the attention of a group of other nonconformists. King is part of this group. He is a Medicenter chief, and he teaches Chip how to get his treatments reduced so that he can regain access to his full range of emotions.
One day, Chip and Lilac, King’s girlfriend, are searching through a collection of old maps when they notice that islands around the world have disappeared from their modern map. They start to wonder whether other nonconformists managed to escape to these islands. Before Chip can popularize his theory, he is found out, and his entire group is treated back into docility, except for King who takes his own life.
Years later, Chip’s regular treatment is delayed due to an earthquake. Without his regular dosage, he starts to remember the islands and Lilac. He avoids the treatment altogether and for the first time in his life is fully aware of what is going on around him. He finds Lilac, who resists him at first, but once she starts to wake up too, she remembers the islands and everything they had spoken about. Lilac and Chip head to the beach where they find a boat and decide to head for the nearest island of nonconformists, Majorca. Chip and Lilac stay on the island, learning that UniComp’s strategy is to banish all nonconformists to the islands so that they can live separately from the treated members of society. Lilac and Chip eventually marry and have a child together.
Chip plots to destroy UniComp by blowing up its refrigeration system. He recruits other people from the island to join him on his mission, and together they make their way to the mainland. Just as they are nearing UniComp, one of the members of the group turns against them and leads the rest by gunpoint to a secret underground city beneath UniComp. There they meet Wei, one of the original planners of their society. The group realizes that they are part of a scheme designed to lure the most daring and resourceful members of society to UniComp where they, too, will live in luxury as programmers.
Fearing he has no other choice, Chip joins the programmers and dedicates himself to winning Wei’s trust. Chip consents to the replacement of his green eye with a brown one—even though this involves giving up a cherished part of his identity.
A few months later, a new group of nonconformists arrives with the same intentions as Chip’s group, and he plans to use their explosives to blow up the computer. There is a physical struggle with Wei, who is shot, and just before he takes his last breath, he reveals his true intentions in creating UniComp. He confesses that he wanted to have ultimate control, to be the sole bearer of power. Chip feels vindicated, as he believed all along that it was a hunger for power, and not altruism, that drove Wei to the creation of such a society.