Soylent Green VS Make Room! Make Room!

Filed Under: Reviews 3 Comments

Most of us are familiar with the twist of Soylent Green, even if we haven’t seen it (spoiler: Soylent Green IS MADE OUT OF PEOPLE!), but most probably aren’t as familiar with the book that inspired the movie.  So how does  Make Room! Make Room! (Harry Harrison, 1966) compare to Soylent Green (1973)?  It’s time for a Book VS Movie Smack Down!


In Soylent Green, Detective Thorn investigates a murder which leads him to learning the secret about what the government is feeding the populace. In Make Room! Make Room!, Andrew Rusch investigates a murder which is thought to be a conspiracy but it turns out to be just a botched robbery attempt. In comparison, the movie’s plot is much more spectacular than the novel’s.  The second half of the novel actually loses a little focus on plot, and instead chooses to focus on the characters as they try to live their lives day to day in the dump that New York City has become.  While this gives us pretty good insight into a crappy future where the food and water supplies have run thin, it doesn’t make for as an exciting story as the movie.

Winner: Soylent Green


The biggest change here is the name of the main character – in Make Room! Make Room! it’s Detective Andy Rorsche, and in Soylent Green it’s Detective Thorn.  I guess Andy Rorsche just wasn’t a cool enough name.  In Soylent Green, he investigates a murder case on his own volition, and makes a wild discovery because of it (the whole people thing…you get the idea). In the novel, he’s over worked, under paid, and is reluctant to take on the murder case, except for the fact that there’s a cute girl involved – pretty much how a normal person would react in this situation.  In the movie, Andy/Thorn’s love interest Shirl is reduced to nothing more than a piece of furniture who’s purpose is only for sex.  Honestly, the movie would be pretty much the same without her in it. In the novel, sure she returns the favor to get into a party or whatever, but she is a little more three dimensional than that.  We even see the relationship between her and Andy grow as she moves in with him and adjusts back to the poor life (the way she grew up) and eventually see it fall apart because Andy’s a bone head.

The book does an excellent job of portraying the characters – they all make mistakes, pay for them, and move on with their lives (well, except for the ones that eat it).  The movie mostly justs throws characters in to sort of fit in with the book, but just ends up doing whatever most of the time.  The movie makes some really weird changes with characters. It turns the murder victim from a crooked “businessman” who was in the rackets to a good samaritan that’s trying to release the secrets of the organization he worked for.  Shirl’s bodyguard is whitewashed and turned into a character that hunts Thorn throughout the movie, and Billy Chung, the murderer, is also whitewashed and he is tuned into more of a hitman.  This was a bummer, because one of the most interesting parts of the novel is following the decisions he makes because of his situation as a poor Chinese American in a piece of crap city.

Winner: Make Room! Make Room!


Soylent Green takes place in the year 2022, in an overpopulated New York sprawl, while Make Room! Make Room! takes place in the year 1999.  Both do a great job of showing the depravity of the over populated New York, from its stair wells overflowing with homeless to the lots where cars have set dead for years and serve as warm homes for the vagrants.  The world building in both is amazing – most of the time it feels like the world is going to smother you, there’s a constant sense of congestion on the streets that works well in both mediums.

Winner: Tie!


The obvious theme in both is that if left unchecked, overpopulation could be the thing that brings mankind down.  Make Room! Make Room! gets a little preachy at times while delving into the topic of birth control to stave the problem, which the movie never touches on, and hits a little on resource usage.  Both the movie and book are there to really make you think, and even though culturally we are more aware of the dangers of resource exhaustion, we still have a ways to go to solve these problems.

Winner: Make Room! Make Room!


Soylent Green provides a more exciting story with a nice conspiracy and twist at the end, while Make Room! Make Room! provides more thought provoking material while giving a more in depth look at life in an overpopulated world.  That said, I think both are pretty awesome, and you should check them out if you get the chance.

Winner:  Make Room! Make Room!

Anybody seen the movie and read the book?  Any thoughts on which one you liked better?  Let me know down in the comments!

  • Mayo Grout

    I couldn’t find my copy of the book so thanks for the refresher. As I recall, though, the line “Soylent Green is made out of people” isn’t in the book nor do I remember there being any reference to the remaking of humans into food.

    Also, the ending is very different in the book, more of a Logan’s Run sort of thing.

    • Kris Truitt

      Absolutely right – in the book, Soylent Green is simply a soy/lentil meal supplement, so it’s quite different and a bit less dramatic. It’s been a while but I remember the ending of the book being a bit of a downer, that basically the world (and its characters) were stuck in their ways.

      Thanks for visiting!

  • reardensteel

    No, the book is dumb and completely different from the movie.
    They shouldn’t even be associated.

    Harrison started to write an interesting story (with a couple cool sci-fi ideas, too), but instead went off a cliff trying to pontificate and apparently ran out of plot.

    What you call “focusing on the characters” is really just using painfully long passages of dialogue to spew his political views.
    And he doesn’t even do it well.
    In the multi-page monologue Sol delivers to Shirl, Harrison recycles all the lamest caricatures of those opposed to abortion, and in Shirl’s scattering of interjections, it’s clear she has no idea what he’s even talking about.
    Sol actually explains to her how fertilization works, as if she (or the reader) did not know that millions of sperm cells die after every ejaculation.
    Sol compares that to a fertilized egg dying.
    Anyway, it gets really juvenile.

    I was hoping the plot, at least, would get better toward the end of the book.
    But, no, all the story lines just sort of fizzled out.
    Sol dies.

    Andy shoots Billy.

    Shirl leaves.

    Life’s a drag.
    The end.
    Lame book.