"Having to save the world was a terrible burden, he thought, staring at the button. The Button. It was the sort of thing a conspiracy theorist might imagine would sit in a locked drawer in Number Ten Downing Street, in some dramatically lit war room at the White House, or a vaulted bunker in Moscow or Beijing, but this imagining would be to underestimate the reach which the Button had, and also to overestimate the power of government."
A Button to Save the World by Edgar Million is a novella with a common plot, but with a twist.
It is sometime in the near future. Robots are commonplace, with every family/person owning one. These robots are not the killers of sci-fi, but simply machines, designed to take care of humanity's menial tasks.
Jeremy Bentwhistle is the Englishman in charge of the 'big, red, DO NOT PUSH button', though this button is indistinct, and it's entire purpose is to be pushed. It sits bolted to his desk, covered with a brass lid, which will only open for his fingerprint.
With the push of the Button, Jeremy could save the world- or more specifically humanity. However, the conditions must first be met. He knows the day draws near, and rues the moment he will push the Button.
Jeremy is a wealthy man, owning many factories around the world. Almost his entire staff is composed of robots. The powers that be decided that robots were so good at their tasks, that they've been 'hired' for every single one. All commercial, retail, factory, in fact any job of any kind is now held by a robot, with a lucky few people still working.
Billions of people were now unemployed. They rose up, protesting and breaking out in large riots. Cities burned, until the robots stopped it. Now most of humanity is purposeless. No career, no prospects, all they do now is get wasted and high. Food, medicine, electricity and home comforts are all provided free of charge (via implanted chips) to every one around the world. There is no more poverty or famine.
Patrick K Useful is one of two humans working in Bentwhistle's London factory. Up until now he had been the regional manager, but the robots have taken even his job. One week left. But Patrick has noticed something amiss, all is not as it should be, and the truth very rarely sets you free.
This is a story with an unusual premise. Not the end of the world or conspiracies or environmental factors or overpopulation- which are all mentioned, but in someone having the ability to 'save the world' and regretting it. Resenting that it's on them. Not in the superhero 'my life is a lie, I have to push you away to protect you' kind of way, but in having a legitimate way to at least slow down the destruction, and not wanting it.
I won't say too much, because with the length of this story it would be easy to spoil, but I enjoyed this book. The ending is chilling, and makes me wonder whether our reality could ever end up the same way. It's not beyond the realm of possibility, though probably for a very distant future.
An interesting, short story with an eerie end, that raises many questions. Does the good of the many outweigh the good of the one? We'd all love a button to fix everything, but remember, there's always a catch. Nothing in life is so easy. The question here is not, 'would you push the button', but rather, 'would you want a button to push?'
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.