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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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    U.S.A. by John Dos Passos (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Brunner modeled his narrative structure on this classic by Dos Passos.
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English (29)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
Science fiction that entralls as it makes you think about the population explosion [we already face]. Told in an experimental fashion combining several different styles, this remains a classic. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
amazing book - difficult esp. at first, but definitely a must read for literate sf fans - does have a bit of a jarring climax ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
Ahead of its time stylistically, this strangely compelling 1967 book is firmly rooted in the late 1960s issues, extrapolated into the future. The racial ethos and geopolitical settings feel dated, as does the attempted 2010 lingo. On the other hand, the style of some of the chapters that reveal bits of advertising or broadcasting from a world saddled with overpopulation and dramatic government and social means of controlling including eugenics, anticipates twitter feeds in reading style and feels very fresh. It's fun to see what the author, who put a lot of research into the work, got right about the era we're now living in, and how much he could never have guessed at.
  DrDeFran | Jul 14, 2014 |
It is the year 2010: there are over seven billion people on an ever-increasingly overcrowded Earth. It is a time when decisions are made wholesale by super-intelligent computers, there are bases on the moon and the Mid-Atlantic is being strip-mined, and when one's genotype determines whether one can have children. Mass-marketed psychedelic drugs are taken by everyone and New York is encased in a giant dome. Three years later, and many of Brunner's predictions for the twenty-first century have not come true yet there are over seven billion people alive today and resources are becoming even more scarce.

Stand on Zanzibar is a frenetic and overwhelming novel that captures the hysteria of a dangerously over-crowded world in a unique and inventive style. The Continuity chapters follow two men whose lives are transformed and yet interlinked: Norman House works for the global mega-corporation General Technics and becomes in charge of a plan to transform an entire country from third- to first-world status, Donald Hogan is sent to an Asian country to investigate a genetic engineering break-through to transform the country's people. These chapters alone are an exciting story of politics, economics and shaping the future of the world.

Yet there is so much more to Stand on Zanzibar. Brunner fully immerses the reader in this frantic world through a similar style to Dos Passos in the USA trilogy. In Tracking with Close-ups, Brunner introduces the reader to various ancillary characters that inhabit the world; in The Happening World, he captures the vibrant and often ephemeral situations that arise in this over-crowded world; and in Context, he develops and fleshes out this world with commentary from noted (fictional) individuals, headlines etc.

Squarely in the New Wave of science fiction, Stand on Zanzibar is complex, eccentric, but above all, startlingly prescient. As Joe Haldeman (author of The Forever War) said, "sci-fi is not about predicting the future; it's about elucidating the present and the past." Brunner has captured the fears of the 1960s and 70s - the fears of scarcity and overpopulation, fears that still resonate today. And yet the book is not overly moralising. Rather, it immerses the reader in a vision of a world not unlike ours today, one that could easily come about.

Overwhelming and visionary, exciting and absorbing, Brunner's vision of the world is still fresh, still as current as when he first wrote this in 1968.
( )
  xuebi | May 30, 2014 |
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 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Brunnerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brin, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gómez García, JesúsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McMurray, JacobIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pemerle, DidierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robinson, Kim StanleyIntroductionsecondary 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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