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Brain wave by Poul Anderson
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Brain wave (1954)

by Poul Anderson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5221319,378 (3.57)1 / 27
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  1. 20
    The Tommyknockers by Stephen King (jseger9000)
    jseger9000: King references Brain Wave in The Tommyknockers and with good reasons. Both books deal (in part) with people whose intelligence is suddenly and unexpectedly increased dramatically.
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Originally posted at FanLit:

Poul Anderson??s Brain Wave has a great premise ƒ?? for millennia, unknown to scientists, the Earth has been under the influence of some sort of field that dampens the speed of neurons in the cortex. But now the Earth has suddenly passed out of the field and immediately neurons start working faster, making everyoneƒ??s IQs (man and animal) escalate dramatically. This sounds like a good thing to me, but perhaps itƒ??s not in Poul Andersonƒ??s mind. In his story, human civilization changes drastically, and mostly not in positive ways.

The story follows several characters: a physicist named Peter Corinth; Sheila, his timid and dull-witted housewife; a mentally-handicapped farmhand named Archie Brock; and an official named Felix Mandelbaum. Each of these characters experiences a large jump in IQ which causes a change in their circumstances. Each of them deals with this change differently as Poul Anderson... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/brain-wave/ ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
"The speed of light as measured may only be a local phenomena." The Earth moves out of a field that retarded intelligence, raising the intelligence level of every thinking creature, including Man. Anderson explores the pros and cons of increased reasoning power, as domestic animals leave their pens, and society collapses. The weakest point is the portrayal of the now beyond measurement intelligent humans; even Anderson has trouble trying to envision how these beings might act. Still a classic of science fiction. ( )
  BruceCoulson | Mar 12, 2014 |
As an earlier reviewer mentioned, the premise, that everyone and every animal on earth, suddenly finds themselves exponentially smarter, could have been an excuse to write a Utopian novel. Instead, Anderson explores the pressures placed on society both from the intellectual below, as those that once performed menial labour now finding it impossible to tolerate, and from above, as those that were already highly intelligent find themselves losing their humanity.

Either of these scenarios could in turn have been the plot of mediocre dystopian novel; but instead everyone muddles along surprisingly realistically.

While most of the characters lack the depth that this premise deserved, the depiction of Archie Brock, a retarded man now raised to what was formerly genius level (in particular, the opening scene, when he realizes how far away the stars must be), raise the book to the level of a masterpiece. ( )
  math_foo | Dec 28, 2011 |
I'd first heard of Brain Wave via a reference in Stephen King's The Tommyknockers. Once I heard the synopsis for this book, I just had to read it: What if overnight, every living being on the Earth got exponentially smarter?

The book opens with a rabbit reasoning its way out of a trap. Animals figure out that they don't like their place in the food chain. Everybody working a menial job decides it is beneath them and society collapses.

I was very impressed with the book. Anderson examines the positive and the negative ramifications of super-intelligence. Not everybody sees it as a boon. Not every psyche is stable enough to handle the change. It would have been so easy to use super intelligence as an excuse to write a Utopian novel, but that is not at all what the author does. Instead, he follows several characters to give a more panoramic view of the changes that take place.

My only disappointment with the book was that it seemed too short. The book clocks in at a hundred and sixty-five pages, but the ideas in the book really deserved more space to spread out. I put that down to the time the book was published (mid-fifties) rather than lack of vision on Poul Anderson's part.

The book shows its mid-fifties origins with references to elevator operators and capable women going for secretarial jobs (that changes as the people’s intellects do). But I have to say that this book felt a lot less dated than most of the sci-fi I’ve read from that period. Maybe it’s because it is set in a contemporary setting, so he avoided things like atomic wristwatches. Anderson does mention computers (even if the users do have to share computer time) and that helps to make the book feel more modern.

He’s also a better writer than a lot of the 50’s sci-fi authors were. His characters didn’t have much more depth than most sci-fi characters (though I thought he did a good job portraying a retarded man whose mind is advanced to that of an incredibly smart man by our standards, yet who is still left behind in his world), but his writing is less stiff than contemporaneous stuff by Asimov and Heinlein.

Very much worth a read. A clever and well written book that leaves you with some things to ponder. It's a shame this book isn't more well known. ( )
1 vote jseger9000 | Jan 2, 2011 |
When the earth emerges from an inter-galactic inhibitor field that had slowed neural activity and limited intelligence for earthly life forms for millions of years, everyone starts getting crazy-smart. Farm animals get too clever for fences, people of below-average intelligence attain high-level genius IQs, and people of normal and above-average intelligence...well, they get a little too smart for their own good. This story raises some interesting questions about what it means to be human, and the importance of intelligence relative to other human qualities. Overall, though, I found the premise much more compelling than the actual execution. The characters are all so thin that it's hard to care much about what happens to them. Moral: Maybe inhumanly clever and logical people don't make for such a great novel. ( )
  keely_chace | Nov 23, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Poul Andersonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aldiss, Brian WIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover Artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345325214, Mass Market Paperback)

For millions of years, the part of the galaxy containing our solar system has been moving through a vast force field that has been inhibiting certain electromagnetic and electrochemical processes and, thus, certain neurotic functions. When Earth escapes the inhibiting field, synapse speed immediately increases, causing a rise in intelligence, which results in a transfigured humanity reaching for the stars, leaving behind our earth to the less intelligent humans and animal life-forms. This is a transcendent look at the possible effects of enhanced intelligence on our planet.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:45 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

For millions of years, the part of the galaxy containing our solar system has been moving through a vast force field that has been inhibiting certain electromagnetic and electrochemical processes and, thus, certain neurotic functions. When Earth escapes the inhibiting field, synapse speed immediately increases, causing a rise in intelligence, which results in a transfigured humanity reaching for the stars, leaving behind our earth to the less intelligent humans and animal life-forms. This is a transcendent look at the possible effects of enhanced intelligence on our planet.… (more)

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