Cover image of "Logan's Run," a dystopian classic

Sometimes it’s hard to tell why any Hollywood producer would adapt a novel to film. Usually, however, it’s perfectly clear what the attraction is. And that is most certainly the case with the classic science fiction thriller, Logan’s Run. Authors William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, both of whom worked in film and television as well as on the printed page, knew exactly what they were doing. The story cries out for portrayal on the screen. In his introduction to the Vintage Movie Classics edition of this dystopian classic, author Daniel H. Wilson (Robopocalypse) writes that “five pages in, the reader realizes that this story is strapped to a rocket, speeding madly toward the conclusion while chewing heedlessly through incredible settings, characters, and ideas.”

No one may live past the age of 21

The year is 2116. Overpopulation has forced the complete transformation of life on Earth. An artificial intelligence called The Thinker is in charge. To limit the numbers of people to a level the planet can support, anyone reaching the age of 21 must enter a Sleepshop for eternal rest. Enforcers called Sandmen hunt down and sometimes kill those who run to escape. Few do. Even fewer, perhaps none, succeed. Yet for those who are determined to escape, the promise of Sanctuary holds out hope.

Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (1967) 192 pages ★★★★☆

Photo of the stars of the film adaptation of the dystopian classic, "Logan's Run"
English actors Michael York as Logan and Jenny Agutter as Jessica in MGM’s 1976 film, Logan’s Run. Nearly 50 years later, Agutter stars as an aging nun in the popular television show, Call the Midwife. Image: Apple TV

A pair of runners in search of Sanctuary

Logan-3 is a Sandman, an enforcer for the Deep Sleep (DS) Headquarters in Greater Los Angeles. He carries a Gun, a multi-purpose weapon that can ensnare a runner, fire explosives, launch a net, or blast a person into atoms. But Logan himself has reached the last day before the chip in his palm will turn to black and announce to one and all that it is time for him to Sleep. Yet on one of his final missions for the DS, he begins to doubt the wisdom and justice of the system. A dying runner thrusts into his hand a key that will unlock the way to Sanctuary. Teaming up with the man’s sister, Jessica, he sets out on a perilous chase all across the planet in search of the gates of Sanctuary. Their flight takes them deep underground and under the ocean, to the wastes of the Arctic North and to the crest of Crazy Horse Mountain. Just steps from death at every turn, they cannot stop running.

About the authors

Photo of William F. Nolan, coauthor of this dystopian classic
William F. Nolan. Image: Wikipedia

William F. Nolan (1928-2021) wrote hundreds of stories in the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and crime fiction genres, including a trilogy of novels about Logan as well as a novella to cap the series. He also wrote biographies and edited collections of stories by other writers such as Ray Bradbury and Dashiell Hammett. And he wrote for the screen as well, including 12 television scripts and three film screenplays. He was married for more than 50 years (but estranged for 10). Nolan died in Vancouver, Washington, at the age of 93.

Photo of George Clayton Johnson, coauthor of this dystopian classic
George Clayton Johnson. Image: Dith Pran – The New York Times

George Clayton Johnson (1929-2015) was best known for co-writing Logan’s Run, the basis for the 1976 film of the same name from MGM. He also wrote TV scripts for The Twilight Zone and the first televised episode of Star Trek as well as the story and screenplay on which the 1960 and 2001 films Ocean’s Eleven were based. He was married for 63 years and fathered two children. Johnson died at the age of 86 in Southern California.

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