The Squares of the City
by John Brunner.
Packaged as a science fiction novel, and of course Brunner is well-known as such, this was not what I had hoped. Rather a boring read, as nothing of any real interest happens.
South American dictator builds new city and uses subliminal messages and other means to control citizens. He and his main political rival chose 15 people to be “chessmen” — these two guys influence their chessmen to make “moves” in a giant game of chess to see which one of the two leaders will win the game. A vaguely interesting idea, but not well carried out.
The only thing that keeps the book readable is Brunner’s skill as a writer – if this had been written by a run-of-the-mill pulp author, I would probably not have been willng to finish. But the writing is good, and he throws in a few interesting philosophical conversations along the way.