One peculiar thing about the City (in the first two parts of the novel, at least) is that everyone must switch their jobs every once in a while, the job being chosen by a machine based in the person's previous record. The punishment for refusing to change jobs or evading them is being sent to labout on the marshes (as explained by Wan who's had experience with this). As an aside, the mayor seemed to remain the mayor (seemed to me) while other characters changed jobs.

A few questions here: what purpose does this system serve? Is it a part of the Experiment, or something made up by the government? How is it related to the real situation in USSR as it was during Strugatskys' time?

1 Answer 1


Yes, I'd say this is a part of the Experiment. No, I can't say it's directly related to the real situation in the USSR*; but there was a general attitude then (not only in the USSR) that things will/should be more rationalised in the future. What can be more rational than a machine assigning you jobs, taking into account all your traits and 'actual' needs? In Brave New World people are bred predestined to certain classes according to the 'needs' of the society.

It's just a generic idea taken to one of its extremes.

Curiously, The Doomed City was planned to be published as an 'inside story' of another novel Limping Fate**. In that 'frame novel', a computer makes a prediction of the 'actual merit' of the story. Just another take on the same idea.

(*) That said, any totalitarian/authoritarian/command system tends to have some of it: the Party can 'determine' that currently you are needed here or there, and 'appoint' you, often without your consent. That wasn't uncommon.

(**) I'm not sure about the official title translation.

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