The Status Civilization

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The cover of an October 1968 Dell Publishing copy of The Status Civilization

The Status Civilization is a science fiction novel by Robert Sheckley, first published in 1960.

The Status Civilization concerns Will Barrent, a man who finds himself, without memory of any crime or, indeed, of his previous life, being shipped across space to the planet Omega.

Omega, used to imprison extreme offenders, has a hierarchical society of extreme brutality, where the only way to advance (and avoid dying) is to commit an endless series of crimes. The average life expectancy from time of arrival on Omega is three years. The story concerns Barrent's attempt to survive, escape, and return to Earth to clear himself of the accusations against him.

Plot summary[edit]

Earth is a uniform, weakly structured, utopian society based on the mutual trust and conformity of its citizens. It is sleepy and stagnant, developing neither socially nor technologically. Its striking social stability is maintained by robots brainwashing children in "closed classes." The ideologies of both Earth and Omega resemble one another, differing only in words. On Omega, the citizens worship Evil (always capitalized) in a cult dedicated to an entity called The Black One. On Earth, the world religion is an amalgam of all the "good" aspects of previous Earth religions. Its institution is the Church of the Spirit of Mankind Incarnate.

As Barrent comes closer to the truth about the reasons for his incarceration, his Omegan consciousness conflicts with his subconsciousness which was programmed in the closed classes by the robots when he was a child. The subsequent psychological struggle is played out by repeating all of the previous fights and battles which Barrent experienced throughout the book, eventually making clear the vision (or "skrenning") which the mutant girl on Omega foresaw of Barrent's death.

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