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G. K. Chesterton’s classic novella tackles anarchy, social order, God, peace, war, religion, human nature, and a few dozen other weighty concepts. And somehow he manages to blend all of it together into a delightful satire, full of tongue-in-cheek commentary that is still relevant today. As the book opens, Gabriel Symes is debating with a soapbox anarchist. The two men impress each other enough that the anarchist introduces Symes to a seven-man council of anarchists, all named after days of the week. Soon they elect Symes their newest member–Thursday. But they don’t know he’s also been recruited by an anti-anarchist organization. And soon Symes finds out that he’s not the only person on the council who is not what he seems. There are other spies and double-agents, all working for the same cause. But who–and what–is the jovial, powerful Mr. Sunday, the head of the organization? Hot-air balloons, elaborate disguises, duels, and police chases–all go to make up this satirical spy novel that both educates and entertains.
THE suburb of Saffron Park lay on the sunset side of London, as red and ragged as a cloud of sunset. It was built of a bright brick throughout; its sky–line was fantastic, and even its ground plan was wild. It had been the outburst of a speculative builder, faintly tinged with art, who called its architecture sometimes Elizabethan and sometimes Queen Anne, apparently under the impression that the two sovereigns were identical. It was described with some justice as an artistic colony, though it never in any definable way produced any art. But although its pretensions to be an intellectual centre were a little vague, its pretensions to be a pleasant place were quite indisputable. The stranger who looked for the first time at the quaint red houses could only think how very oddly shaped the people must be who could fit in to them. Nor when he met the people was he disappointed in this respect. The place was not only pleasant, but perfect, if once he could regard it not as a deception but rather as a dream. Even if the people were not “artists,” the whole was nevertheless artistic. That young man with the long, auburn hair and the impudent face—that young man was not really a poet; but surely he was a poem. That old gentleman with the wild, white beard and the wild, white hat—that venerable humbug was not really a philosopher; but at least he was the cause of philosophy in others. That scientific gentleman with the bald, egg–like head and the bare, bird–like neck had no real right to the airs of science that he assumed. He had not discovered anything new in biology; but what biological creature could he have discovered more singular than himself? Thus, and thus only, the whole place had properly to be regarded; it had to be considered not so much as a workshop for artists, but as a frail but finished work of art. A man who stepped into its social atmosphere felt as if he had stepped into a written comedy.