334 (novel)


Dust-jacket from the first edition (hardcover)
Author Thomas M. Disch
Country United States
Language English
Genre Dystopian, science fiction novel
Published 1972 (MacGibbon & Kee)
Media type Print (hardback)
Pages 201 pp
ISBN 0-261-63283-3
OCLC 707750
LC Class PZ4.D615 Th3 PS3554.I8

334 is a science fiction novel by American author Thomas M. Disch, written in 1972. It is a dystopian look at everyday life in New York City around the year 2025.


Most of the novel's characters live in a huge housing project at 334 East 11th Street, in Manhattan. The title also refers to the year 334 AD, during the later years of the Roman Empire; numerous comparisons are made between the decline of Rome and the future of the United States.

Plot summary

The future in 334 has brought few technological advances except for new medical techniques and recreational drugs. There have been no dramatic disasters, but overpopulation has made housing and other resources scarce; the response is a program of compulsory birth control and eugenics. A welfare state provides for basic needs through an all-encompassing agency called MODICUM, but there is an extreme class division between welfare recipients and professionals.

The novel consists of five independent novellas (previously published separately) with a common setting but different characters, and a longer sub-novel called "334" whose many short sections trace the members of a single family forward and backward in time. The sections are as follows:


References to other works

Critical reception

334 was selected by David Pringle as one of the 100 best science-fiction novels written since World War II. Samuel R. Delany's The American Shore (1978) is a book-length critical essay on the novella "Angouleme"; Delany argues that despite the lack of any scientific themes in "Angouleme", its speculative setting makes it inherently science fiction. The novel was nominated for a 1974 Nebula Award. Previously, the novella "334" won a Locus Poll Award in 1973.

In the 9th chapter of "Neon Genesis Evangelion" 334 is the shelter number that Kensuke and Toji are in.


Shrimp watches 54 movies at home. Besides existing films, Disch lists some proposed future works including Leaves of Grass, Melmoth, Stanford White, The Confessions of St. Augustine, Pale Fire, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti, and The Hills of Switzerland; the last is the title of one of Louis Sacchetti's books in Camp Concentration.

Several usages of future slang in early editions of the novel were "corrected" to standard spellings in the 1999 Vintage Books edition. Two of these, "mickeymouse" and "sexlife", were contractions indicating the increasingly casual usage of the phrases; another, "gorillas" for members of the Marines, was changed to "guerrillas", but may have been an intentional pun due to the black masks worn by the soldiers. The novel is dedicated to "Jerry Mundis, who lived here."

Release details


External links

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