"We [science fiction writers] always wanted to believe in "private sector" space -- hucksters make better characters than a government does."
The first tranquilizer (Reserpine) appeared in western medicine in 1952; one assumes that abuse of this drug followed shortly thereafter. In the world of this novel (about eight hundred years from now), there were many ways to escape the grim reality (or the ecstatic potentialities) of life.
Gully Foyle, the protagonist, is in some ways an exceptional man; he demonstrated extraordinary capacities that were terrifying to the ordinary person. Over the course of the novel, he comes to terms with himself and his potential.
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Would a robot walking toward you make you feel afraid?
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