crystalbutton

THE CRYSTAL BUTTON | CHAUNCEY THOMAS
First published: 1891 | Takes place: 4872
In The Crystal Button, our hero is transported to the far-flung future of 4872. The bewildered time-traveler, Paul Prognosis, is quickly informed that the city of Boston no longer exists.

"Why, my dear sir, do you not know that you are in the good city of Tone?" Professor Prosper asks him. (Yes, that's right: it's another socialist utopia.)

Tone, as Paul discovers, is a city with a population in the millions, where men are scientists and women graduate from the Home-makers' Institute, and where the government runs charming gourmet restaurants. From the top of the Peace Tower, you can see the Old Bridge — constructed around 3500 — as well as the vast, terraced pyramids that house thousands of the city's enlightened residents. Off in the distance is Mount Energy, which supplies the city with wind- and solar-based power (Thomas could already see the fuel crisis coming in 1872). "Electric suns" keep the city lit 24 hours a day; people get around in electric cars, high-speed monorails, and airships.

Paul and the Professor spend the rest of the book wandering through Tone and having blindingly dull philosophical debates, which seems to be the top priority for Victorian time travelers. You can imagine people of the future dreading their visits: "Oh shit, another one from the 1800s. He probably wants to talk about labor. Whose turn is it?"

S.I. Rosenbaum

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