William F. Nolan’s Logan

This summer’s reading in preparation for Arcana was William F. Nolan’s Logan Trilogy. It was decidedly less time consuming than previous Arcana reading of Ambrose Bierce and Kathe Koja.

Logan’s Run and I go way back to 1977 when the Logan’s Run series was on tv. The young MarzAat was particularly impressed by the “Man Out of Time” which I see was written by Nolan and David Gerrold. However, it wasn’t that many years later I noticed its basic resemblance to T. L. Sherred’s “E for Effort” from 1948.

There is even a link to this blog’s name and Logan’s Run. The details would be boring to you and embarrassing to me.

However, it wasn’t until sometime in the 1980s I actually saw the movie and read Logan’s Run.

After we watched 1998’s Free Enterprise with its soon-to-be-30-years old hero dreaming of Logan, my wife told me the movie had a lot of fans.

I had no idea.

Low Res Scan: William F. Nolan’s Logan: A Trilogy, William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, 1986.William F. Nolan's Logan

‘Cause I understand you’ve been running from the man

That goes by the name of the Sandman

— “Sandman”, America

 

It’s sex and drugs and a long party in the year 2072.

Sure, people still need jobs for a few hours a week. There’s those juvie punk scum hanging out in the Cathedral of Los Angeles. The occasional adult miscreant gets a trip on the Hellcar to an Arctic prison.

It’s kind of a short life though ’cause, when the crystal “flower” in your palm starts flashing, it’s Lastday, and you’d better shuffle off to the Re-Live center to replay the greatest hits of your life before heading off to the Sleepshop.

Of course, there’s always a few people who don’t play by the rules and try to make a run for life beyond 21. It’s the dedicated gunslingers of Deep Sleep, the Sandmen, who take care of that problem.

When the details fade from Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s Logan’s Run fade, you remember the frenetic pace and the impressionistic prose.

Just after you read Nolan and Johnson’s two page dedication to various authors, books, radio shows, comics, and movies, you know you’re in for something different.

This omnibus is only 384 pages long, so there’s no lallygagging. These novels are peak prose delivery systems.

Sandman Logan starts out his day listening to some citizen nattering on his Lastday about how it all seemed to go rather quickly. But, but, he’s no runner scum!

Then, after he spends some unrewarding time in the hallucimill and stagroom, Logan’s off to waste one of those scums.

He’s been wondering when his lastday is and then finds out it’s today!

So, using some clues from the man he killed, Logan impulsively decides to look for the legendary Sanctuary for runners created by a man named Ballard.

And then we go on a careening narrative, enabled by a vast underground transportation network, that stays in North America. There’s the underwater city ruled by an AI, a crazy cyborg artist who has some lethal modeling sessions in mind for Logan and Jessica, the babe and fellow runner he picks up and bonds with via terror sex.

There’s a pass through a re-creation of the American Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg with robots.

And, warming my heart, three scenes set in South Dakota: a crèche outside of Rapid City, a vast computer system under the Crazy Horse Monument, and the ruins of Deadwood where, to escape the clutches of futuristic biker gang, Logan has to manfully — if painfully — pleasure six biker sluts and carve some flesh from Jessica.

Surely, the highest South Dakota content of any science fiction novel I’ve read! Maybe that’s because Nolan’s a Midwesterner from Kansas City.

That may account for making the teenager who started this whole don’t trust kill-anyone-over-21 business from Charleston, Missouri.

Throughout all this, Logan’s colleague and sort of friend, Francis, is in hot pursuit. And Logan knows Francis is smarter and tougher than he is.

Nolan, in this edition, puts in some of his own illustration for the novels.

He also has a long introduction detailing the genesis of his cultural hero, the man who runs from an authoritarian system. It started as an aside when he taught a class in science fiction at UCLA in 1963, and, from the beginning, 1967’s Logan’s Run was intended for the screen. Johnson assisted in writing the novel because selling a script based on an already existing novel was deemed easier.

Nolan talks about the life of his creation and its surprisingly varied spin offs as of 1986. (You can get a sense of that from the United Sandmen page.)

And Now I’ll Spoil the Rest of the Trilogy

You’d expect Logan’s World (1977) to be one of two things.

The brave runners who made it to Sanctuary, actually an abandoned space station off Mars, will return and liberate the people’s from Earth

or

The inhabitants of Argos station will create a new order in space.

Nolan does neither nor does he hit the reset button.

Logan returns to Earth six years after the events of Logan’s Run because the Sanctuary dream is dead. Ballard was unable to keep the supply ships coming and the colony died except for Logan, Jessica, and their son Jaq who return to Earth in a ship.

But, if Sanctuary is dead, so is the old order, brought down by Ballard in an heroic and suicidal act.

The creature comforts of the old days are gone. Society has collapsed, and ex-Sandmen run petty kingdoms and gangs.

This is a dark and nasty story in a dark and nasty world. Jaq is killed. Jessica is taken as a sex slave by one scavenger gang, the Borgia Riders.

Logan puts on the old Sandman uniform and straps on his Gun (and it’s always called the Gun because it has all sorts of interesting bullets and capabilities) to get Jessica back.

Logan can be pretty ruthless and vicious in the quest for his babe. This quest will again take him to South Dakota where ex-Sandman Gant has taken up in the ruins of the destroyed computer, the Thinker, that organized the old world.

Flashbacks to the youth of Logan 3, a bid of odd typography, and Logan showing his charisma when leading resistance to Gant’s plan get the Thinker running again follow

The novel ends with Gant dead and the Crazy Horse Monument trashed. Logan and Jessica will lead the Wilderness People in the Black Dakotas in creating a new order.

So you would expect Logan’s Search (1980) to describe the adventure in creating that new order.

Except it goes into a completely different and odd direction.

Oh, it starts out with the Wilderness People in Old Washington (presumably Washington D.C.). Jessica is pregnant again and another group of survivors offer to trade food for medical supplies left in Old Chicago.

Logan goes off to take a look.

And gets captured by aliens.

And they decide to send him to an alternate Earth where the “computerized death system” has stabilized due to some “dark force”. Our Logan is to go to that world, impersonate its Logan, and destroy that system.

And he’s got 14 days to do it or be trapped on that alternate Earth.

We got a little globe hopping in Logan’s World with flashbacks to young Logan, but we get a lot in the third novel: Africa, Moscow, Monte Carlo, Jamaica, and

Egypt where this world’s Francis and Logan are to be made gods — though there is a little trouble after Logan foolishly looks up this world’s Jessica and gets accused of dealing drugs. (In the first world, tobacco was on the forbidden list.)

And, of course, Logan trashes another world order.

And those aliens are kind of voyeuristic cenobites.

These books are fun and a very quick read. How many trilogies today can you casually burn through in five days?

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

 

Breaking News! There’s another Logan story as of this year, “Logan’s Mission”. I suspect I may find it in the dealer’s room at Arcana.

 

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