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Stand On Zanzibar by John Brunner

Stand On Zanzibar (original 1968; edition 1973)

by John Brunner

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Title:Stand On Zanzibar
Authors:John Brunner
Info:Ballantine Pb (1973), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner (1968)

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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Spoiler alert. Several things annoyed me about this dystopian overpopulation novel:

1. Swearing. Why? Why, John Brunner? Why did you decide that in 2010 the English language would be unchanged in any respect, except for bad words, which would not have evolved but been forgotten and replaced by entirely new ones?! And why did you pick such stupid words, and having picked them, why must you use them so often? If I ever again read "sheeting hole" where I ought to read "bloody hell", or the dire "whatinole" for "what the hell" or "hole in corner" to describe a benighted location, I will know I am reading this novel again, and that I must therefore have lost my mind, and will therefore kill myself.

2. Shiggy Culture. The idea, I suppose, is an extension of the 1960's free love ethos. People have sex with no emotional hangups, coming and going as they please. Fine - but in Brunner's world it's strictly one-way. Well-off men - sorry, "codders" or "zecks" - allow women - that is, "shiggies" - to live indefinitely in their apartments and eat their food, in exchange for sex. Well, great... if you're a man who wants a young woman in his apartment who he doesn't have to talk to. This theme permeates the book, and the only woman called a woman rather than a "shiggy" is the geriatric and past-it chairwoman of the mega-corp General Technics. Every other female in the book is either a passive child-bearer or a vapid "shiggy". There are many scenes of men sitting together, chomping cigar-like objects, discussing world-domination. Was this really how the future seemed in 1968?

3. Inconsistencies. Hogan is "eptified", i.e. rapidly trained by futuristic means, into a deadly assassin. Great, and this sets up a nice psychological conflict in the guy which is handled OK. So why does this master of the lethal arts accidentally stab to death the man he's meant to be rescuing/kidnapping? It doesn't make any sense. Brunner could have made it a deliberate murder easily enough, but no... And while we're taking someone with a knowledge of Yatakangi and making them into a killing machine, would it not have been easier for the government to train one of their existing killing machines in Yatakangi and send him (or even, god forbid, her)?

4. Chad C. Mulligan. A.k.a. the author. This novel spends a luxuriant 250-300 pages worldbuilding, some of which are given over to excerpts from the works of sociologist Chad C. Mulligan. Chad is a crashing explicatory bore who initially serves only to chant the author's sneering opinion of hoi polloi. But later Chad comes into the novel as a character, a sort of beardy, shambling visionary who eventually, and with minimal effort except hiring dozens of scientists, which no-one had apparently thought to do before, discovers the secret of the Shinka. Well done, Chad, i.e. John Brunner, you're a genius.

5. Race. Other races are very much other in this novel. This would be understandable, perhaps, if it was written from a white/American/Caucasian point of view, but it's explicitly not. One of the main characters is a black Muslim American. We know this because on two occasions (in a 550-page novel) he declines a drink, and on about 550 occasions he prefaces his speech with the exclamation "Prophet's Beard!" This is poor writing. There are two minor French characters, brother and sister, who are drenched in ennui and sometimes even talk in French and end up screwing each other. The Asiatics (principally Sugaiguntung) are insrcutable and unpredictable. The Africans are full of wisdom, and (this almost qualifies as point 6.) the Shinka have a prophet who Brunner spends about 10 ghastly pages on in the form of pseudo-parables, like Aesop written by an eight-year old. The parables are lifted directly from the Bible and there is no point in reading them. What lingers is Brunner's deep anxiety about people of other races and skin colours.

The only time the prose feels alive is in a few brief passages of manly adventure deep in the jungle. It seems to me that Brunner was an adventure writer with a zillion 1960's hangups which he tried to expiate in "Stand on Zanzibar" but failed, despite the reasonableness of the premise. "Stand on Zanzibar" reads like a tour of a frightened mind, but frightened for all the wrong reasons and not those ostensibly treated by the novel. Vision of the future? This book is the usual false prophet, forecasting doom very specifically, in a way that will only be invalidated 50 years from time of writing, or, generously, from time of review. Well I will stick my neck out and say this book will never be as relevant as when it was written, 1968, if it was relevant then. ( )
  yarb | Mar 22, 2014 |
When I read this in 1972 I would have given this five stars. Now, in 2011, I'm a different person. this is a different time, and much of this book does not hold up for me. There is a lot that does - that's why I give it 3 stars. I find it to be a somewhat tedious read now though. It might be worth reading for a first time....hard for me to tell. ( )
  m2snick | Feb 19, 2014 |
Wow... I loved "The Sheep Look Up", which was similarly fractured, but this was just too much for me to get started with. ( )
  stewartfritz | Apr 4, 2013 |
Just couldn't plod through it ( )
  Georges_T._Dodds | Mar 30, 2013 |
A searingly bitter yet somehow wry dystopia. While it's obviously a product of the late 60s, at the same time much of it seems eerily prescient (shallow media, consumerism, corporatisation, etc). It's taken me several months to read it, but that has actually proved for the best - it's given me time to properly digest it, and I'm very impressed by how Brunner's seemingly fragmented approach, with hundreds of tiny, scattered chapters, could end up being woven into a cohesive whole. Kudos are also due for having non-white characters and non-white settings, and for thoughtful explorations of post-colonial legacies. One of the very best in the SF Masterworks series. ( )
3 vote salimbol | Oct 21, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Brunnerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McMurray, JacobIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tinkelman, MurrayCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"There is nothing wilful or arbitrary about the Innis mode of expression. Were it to be translated into perspective prose, it would not only require huge space, but the insight into modes of interplay among forms of organisation would also be lost. Innis sacrificed point of view and prestige to his sense of the urgent need for insight. A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding. As Innes got more insight he abandoned any mere point of view in his presentation of knowledge. When he interrelates the development of the steam press with the 'consolidation of the vernaculars' and the rise of nationalism and revolution he is not reporting anybody's point of view, least of all his own. He is setting up a mosaic configuration or galaxy for insight... Innes makes no effort to 'spell out' the interrelations between the components in his galaxy. He offers no consumer packages in his later work, but only do-it-yourself kits..." - Marshall McLuhan: The Gutenberg Galaxy
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0837604389, Hardcover)

A Hugo-award-winning novel of over-population, poitical struggles, and warped ethics. "A quite marvelous projection in which John Brunner landscapes a future that seems the natural foster child of the present...Everything compounds into a fractured tomorrow--from the population explosion to Marshall McLuhan to the Territorial Imperative to the underground press..."--Kirkus Reviews

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