The Infinite Cage by Keith Laumer

Dobson, 1976, 221 p.

The Infinite Cage cover

Well this one took me back.

If it wasn’t yellow jacketed Gollancz hardbacks on the SF shelves at Dumbarton Library in my youth it was Dobson Science Fiction ones. Well, this has a yellow cover but it’s a Dobson. It’s also a former library book. I recently picked it up in a local charity shop.

A naked man wakes up in a police cell with no memories. He escapes more or less by accident and by turns falls into the orbit of Louella, a medium who quickly spots his ability to read minds and conceives of him as a route to riche. For convenience she names him Adam.

He has an ability to tune into voices but his knowledge of society and how to interact with others is limited. This gives Laumer the opportunity to engage in satire on late 60s early 70s US life. (The novel was first published in 1972.)

To make seed money Adam takes a job as an accountant using the experience of one of his voices. He quickly reveals the proprietor was being conned by suppliers and staff.

Through his voices he realises the level of need in the world and resolves to make money so that he can alleviate people’s worries.

This gives Laumer the opportunity to illustrate the difficulties of giving money away – or rather, having your motives for doing so misunderstood or impugned.

Various other adventures befall Adam including tangling with the darker side of the betting industry.

In this context I would note the utter immorality involved in a hospital precipitately discharging a very ill patient on its authorities’ belatedly discovering he has no money for the treatment.

The book is entertaining enough in a slightly old–fashioned way but falls in to metaphysics towards the end. It’s not without merit though, even if the characterisation is sometimes rudimentary.

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