Mini book review: ‘The Joy Makers,’ by James Edwin Gunn

by Keena Kimmel

Happiness. We’re all after it, right? The founders of the republic apparently thought so, as it was written into our Constitution as an inalienable human right. But, what if the achievement of mass happiness proved both counter-productive and destructive to creativity and health? “The Joy Makers” was first published by James Edwin Gunn in 1961. It’s a sci-fi take on the ease-of-living that emerged from the 1950s but is equally pertinent today.

The story opens as Joshua P. Hunt, a sickly, stressed-out businessman, discovers a series of strangely intriguing ads that promise “Happiness Guaranteed by dialing ‘P-L-E-A-S-U-R.” Suspicious and cynical, he locates these happiness hucksters in an unassuming warehouse where people have already begun to flock. For starters, their “diagnostic chair” diagnoses and cures all ailments. Happiness, it is explained, is no longer an art, it’s a science. He’s intrigued about the rest.

Fast-forward 75 years to Feb. 23, 2035. Hedonics, Inc. has gone global. Happiness is the law and no one has been spared, but the outcome is not at all what you’d think. If you enjoy classic science fiction that explores societal “what ifs?” as only good sci-fi can, then “The Joy Makers” is for you.

Keena Kimmel Owner of White Rabbit Books and Curiosities

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