From the back cover: The world turned upside down. Sexual Freedom: There are no limits on where, why, when, how, or with whom. The only dirty word is "No". Freedom from want: Zero Population Growth has been achieved and at last the world's resources have caught up with demand. But, you pay a price. Decency is a social offense. Right to life of the unborn is zero -- even its mother cannot protect an "unauthorized fetus". Is is worth it? Or is rampant, coercive liberalism the worst tyranny of all? In the tradition of Brave New World and 1984, Love Conquers All is a realistic assessment of certain trends in our society taken to their logical conclusions: the result is a scathing science fiction indictment of our generations most cherished shibboleths. This is iconoclasm in grand style.
The story is about a man named Art Rodney. He comes home from work one bright sunny southern Californian day and finds a note from his wife has left because she is pregnant, taking their two children with her. She wants to have the baby, which would be against the law since they already have two children. To follow the law she would be forced to have the fetus aborted. The story follows Art as he sets off to find his wife, to try to get her to follow the law. In the course of story Saberhagen describes a society where promiscuity is normal (even wearing non-transparent clothes is considered dirty and words like "chastity" and "sublimation" are curse words). No the story is not pornographic, for all the descriptions of actual intercourse included the characters might as well be playing tiddlywinks. Although at times I had trouble believing the world Saberhagen creates (where men go to brothels to pay women not to have sex, but just talk) the book is entertaining and I found myself identifying with Art despite my reservations about the society in which he lives. Saberhagen does a good job with his hero, giving him all the contradictions of a real person.
The story was originally published in 1974 and it is definitely a product of the pre-AIDS era, with no mention of contraception at all except after the fact. Would I compare it to Brave New World (one of my favorites) and 1984? No. It is not bad as older science fiction goes and it has its moments, but it is not that good. Is the story an effective as a indictment of liberal values? Yes and no. I found myself sympathizing with the Christians in the story, who wanted to remain virgins and used artificial wombs to allow the fetuses of women wanted their illegal children preserved, and despite the Malthusian nightmare that we might face the idea of mandatory abortions is abhorrent. But, the society illustrated and the way it casually deals with sexuality is just to far fetched to be believed or feared. We're all way to neurotic for things to go that far.