Great Hugo Readthrough 1955: Mark Clifton and Frank Riley’s They’d Rather Be Right

Sorry this one is late, next week’s will be on time.

First Time/ Reread: Hey, this is the first book in the readthrough that I haven’t read before!
Acquired: Library

Other Nominees:
None, we won’t see other nominees listed until ’59.

Background: They’d Rather be Right, also known as The Forever Machine, was originally published as a four-part serial in Astounding Science Fiction.

Synopsis: It’s set in a future of mediocrity and public opinions controlled by the government, and a secretive telepath has harnessed a team of scientists into creating a supercomputer named Bossy that can grant immortality, solve any problem, make people telepathic… it’s a magical MacGuffin. Popular opinion swayed against the machine, forcing the two lead scientists and the telepath to go into hiding with it.

Verdict: Does this deserve the Hugo? Hell no, it doesn’t. This book was filled with bizarre, pointless technobabble, bland plots, forgettable characters, pseudoscientific 50’s pop psychology, repeated hate oriented against academia, inconsistent messages, boring action scenes, unnecessary characters, and only one named female character. The climax of the book? They put Bossy into mass production, and the telepath/ main character gives a John Galt-esque speech. This is definitely the worst book in the reread so far, and much of what I’ve read claims it is the worst book to ever win a Hugo. The only interesting scene is the opener, where the telepath uses his powers to help his cohorts evade federal agents. Avoid this book.

Trivia: Many editions of the book come with two prequel short stories.

<1954: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451
1955: Mark Clifton and Frank Riley’s They’d Rather Be Right>