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I've read a lot of stories over the years, and Google is not being kind to my search terms (it probably flagged something with NSA or Homeland Security, too).

The book I'm thinking of is set in an alternate reality, in the future for when it was written but in what is now our past. Overpopulation is a concern with not much food available (compared to the population). The government takes volunteers who are offering to end their lives, and then those volunteers are converted into nutritional pills that are handed out to the rest of the population as food.

I was originally thinking it was 1984, but others have contested that.

I have not read Make Room! Make Room!, by Harry Harrison, from which the movie Soylent Green was adapted (I have not seen this movie either).

I would have read this book circa 2008-2010, but it was definitely an older book (pre-90s). If I remember correctly, this was during my "Top 100 books" phase, where I was catching up on the top-rated books. I'm assuming it may be on a list such as this, and I remember some of the other books were from Hemingway, The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, etc.

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    Make Room! Make Room! is a great book, but it doesn't involve people being turned into food. The film Soylent Green did, but not voluntarily, I think (haven't seen it either — the book is great, though).
    – SQB
    May 9, 2017 at 20:30
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    "Nature's End" by Whitley Strieber & James Kunetka scifi.stackexchange.com/a/43380/4918 matches some of your points, although turning people to food isn't mentioned in that answer.
    – b_jonas
    May 9, 2017 at 20:40
  • No, it definitely did not involve a cult. For some reason, my mind is associating it with the same environment as the telescreens in 1984.
    – ps2goat
    May 10, 2017 at 14:52
  • Do you have an approximate date that it was published/you read it?
    – user72
    May 10, 2017 at 18:56
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    In Soylent Green, people commit suicide in a legal ritual, and their corpses are processed as food. But that processing a big secret from the population. The people committing suicide and the people later eating the food in question do not know that food is made from corpses.
    – Chaim
    May 12, 2017 at 15:52

2 Answers 2

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Piers Anthony's Macroscope (1969) contains a description of an alien species who allow themselves to be made into food for financial gain (or to offset loss):

Those who could not afford to pay their debts were butchered; those who could not achieve sufficient success in life gained a few years of rich living by selling their bodies in advance for meat. It was a fashionable and comfortable mode of suicide, and at present some fifty percent of the individuals sublimated their lemming-instinct in this fashion.

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Cloud Atlas by Mitchell would answer your question, but it is not from the 90s, but from 2004. I think you might be mistaken as to the fact of being an older book.

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    Please could you edit this answer to include more details about Cloud Atlas and how it fits the description in the question? See also our guidelines on writing a good story-ID answer.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 27, 2018 at 8:14
  • I most definitely have not read Cloud Atlas, nor have I seen the movie. But thank you for the recommendation!
    – ps2goat
    Sep 27, 2018 at 16:05
  • I don't recall that Cloud Atlas describes a future world in which "Overpopulation is a concern with not much food available" and "the government takes volunteers who are offering to end their lives". These are two prerequisites specified in the question. Sep 28, 2018 at 3:40
  • @Chappo: they're not volunteers; they're slaves.
    – Peter Shor
    Jan 2 at 2:42
  • @PeterShor please re-read my comment, which explains why Cloud Atlas is the wrong answer because its future world does not involve volunteers. Perhaps a more explicit comment was needed. Thus: the fabricants' food is indeed made from recycled fabricants, but fabricants are slaves (not "volunteers"), they go to what they wrongly believe is an idyllic retirement (rather than "offering to end their lives") where they're butchered and recycled into mind-controlling food (not "nutritional pills"), and this food is only for fabricants (not "handed out to the rest of the population"). Jan 3 at 4:08

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