The Green Millennium

Fritz Leiber
The Green Millennium Cover

The Green Millennium


Green Millennium is about a man, Phil, (and Arthur Dent type but without all the charm, i.e. audience surrogate almost no personality) who has a brief encounter with a magical green cat. Lucky (the cat) makes everyone around him feel connected and loved. In this world of conservative politics (I was going to type hyper-conservative politics, but then I realized that the religious-right fictional president and his Bureau of Loyalty isn't that far off from what our current Republican candidate for president would like) contrasted against hyper-sexualized consumerism there are a lot of interesting characters and circumstances, so the story is mostly Phil being pulled through the story on a quest to reclaim the feeling of wellbeing and confidence that he had while around Lucky.

I suppose that calling Phil a charmless Arthur Dent is a little unfair. The book opens with Phil waking up to the sight of Lucky having come in his window. Phil thinks he's hallucinating becuse he took too many sleep pills while trying to kill himself. He's unemployed, having been replaced by robots in every job he's had (a little bit of an outdated theme, but as a person who just got replaced by someone who lives across the world who will, in turn, be replaced by automated processes, the theme is surprisingly relavent again), so I understand where he's coming from. This opening scene is easily forgotten in the coming shenanigans, but when taken into account, makes Phil much more understandable. He is bland, but any person who has suffered from depression can tell you that blandness is his pleasant outer shell. Phil's sudden field-trip (via magic cat) out of depression and into confidence could have done nothing else but to cause him to seek and crave that feeling again. I don't have chronic depression (though I have suffered from moderate depressions before), but I do have social anxiety, and I can tell you that my experiences with ecstasy, in which my anxiety went completely away and I felt like everyone was my best friend, were some of the most enlightening of my life. It makes me empathize greatly with Phil.

There are some outdated themes in the book, particularly around US attitudes towards Russia and Russian communism. But how was Leiber to know that it wouldn't last? Besides that, he builds a world that is, if not actually representative, at least relavent to our own. "Morals" vs hedonism/consumerism is a timeless theme. Here's my favorite bit of world-building: a predominant entertainment in this world is the "handie", which are installed in homes, diners, and bars. It's is a hand-like devise operated by a woman who works a paired devise while singing a "sex song". I don't know why this amuses me so thoroughly. The idea of men getting hand jobs in diners while a cam-girl gives a hand job to the air while singing makes me giggle.

Less amusing, Leiber does seem to only take male sexuality into account when constructing the hyper-sexed side of his world, but it's far from the worst I've seen in a 1950s novel and the women in the book are fairly well fleshed out and are real characters, even if they are mostly foils for the men. My favorite of the three major female characters is Juno Jones. She's a wrestler for Fun Inc in the male-female wrestling matches. At one time she was considered beautiful and married a fellow wrestler, but after years of hormone treatment to make her bigger and stronger, she's lost her feminine softness. But the character is treated as a woman anyway, one who wants affection, who has complicated feelings about her husband, one who is willing to stand up for what she wants, who takes amusement where she can get it with her fans. I loved any scene Juno Jones was in.

I can't say that I recommend the book to everyone, but it is well written and fun. As a cat book specifically for my cat quest, it was great. I'm partial to its pro-domestic-cat attitude. :)

P.S. Also, every edition of the book has hideous/nonsensical covers, don't let them fool you. For example, mine clearly has a cover that was picked out from generic fantasy art only because it has a cat (a full grown tiger) on the cover. They then went and tinted the whole thing green and said "good enough!".