Thea von Harbou’s Metropolis is the classic novel of prophetic science fiction that inspired both Fritz Lang’s silent movie masterpiece and Osamu Tezuka’s contemporary feature-length anime, and is one sf classic everyone should read. Here is a magical, visionary page-turner so rich and inventive as to defy description.
Von Harbou’s visionary novel has been compared to such prophetic classics as Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, H. G. Wells’ When the Sleeper Wakes, Karel Capek’s RUR, and George Orwell’s 1984. Contemporary comparisons have been made to Samuel Delaney’s Triton, Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, Peter F. Hamilton’s The Reality Dysfunction, and Greg Egan’s Permutation City. “The language [of the book] is sometimes as theasuric as Shiel, as Kaleidoscopic as Merritt, as bone-spare as Bradbury, as poetic as Poe, as macabre as Machen,” writes Forrest Ackerman.
Metropolis paints a stunning picture of the city of the future. At the top of the social pyramid, those who own the city’s buildings and businesses live idyllic lives devoted to the pursuit of pleasure—while at its bottom are the workers who live a hellish existence, laboring like robots in its factories, dwelling with their gaunt, stunted children in the everlasting gloom of underground barracks. Fighting to right these inequities are two lovers: Freder, son of the master and builder of Metropolis, who is shocked to social conscience when he glimpses the squalor and hopelessness amid which his father’s workers live; and Maria, who encourages the workers to stand united for their rights while following a path of nonviolent resistance.
Filled with unforgettable images from Joh Fredersen’s headquarters rearing high above the gleaming spires of Metropolis, to the pleasure city, Yoshiwara, whose name flares across the skies to the factories where workers slave before machines that resemble a pantheon of the world’s gods, to the evil robotrix, Parody, with the eyes of a Madonna and lips of deadly sin, whose carnal dance inspires the workers to revolt ... Metropolis is an unforgettable, must-read book.