Movie lovers might recognize Make Room! Make Room! as the basis for the 1973 film Soylent Green, which starred Charlton Heston. While Soylent Green has become a cult classic, fans of the novel have taken issue with its interpretation of what Harrison was really trying to say. Concerned about audiences losing interest, the creators of the film made cannibalism and not overpopulation (as it is in the book) the thematic focus of the story. As a result, fans of the movie and critics alike may want to visit the story in its original unbowdlerized form.
Make Room! Make Room! is set in the year 1999 and the world has become a grim and terribly overpopulated place, bleak and foreboding. This sets the premise for Harrison's novel, and fans of his earlier more comic works may be surprised at the seriousness of this novel. Although Harrison's fears did not become a reality for the inhabitants of New York or the rest of the United States, the novel remains nonetheless a gripping, thought-provoking work about privacy, deprivation, and desperation.
A teeming New York City and a detective's pursuit of a killer and nefarious racketeer comprise this novel. While the novel contains elements of classic detective fiction—the hard-boiled protagonist, the seductive mistress, the portraits of corruption and perfidy—Harrison's true concern is less the story itself and more the opportunity the story offers to give the reader a glance at a dismal and broken world. The state of overpopulation has altered life in innumerable ways, and Harrison is keenly interested in documenting the catastrophic effects of this burden on all human relationships.