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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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5651617,607 (3.58)1 / 28
  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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English (14)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
The blurb on the front cover of the paperback version reads "A panoramic story of what happens to a world gone super intelligent!". That sums the basic premise up so perfectly it is worth repeating.

I love high concepts, they save me from struggling to write an accurate synopsis. Brain Wave is about every living creature in the world suddenly having their intellect more than quadrupled. Such a deceptively simple premise, it seems like anybody can write a story about this. However, Poul Anderson is one of sf's all time greats, and here he managed to spin out a lot of imaginative yet entirely believable ramifications from such an event.

Referring back to that aforementioned blurb again the "panoramic story" part refers to a multiple viewpoints structure which allows the author to create a detailed post-IQ boost world. Here Anderson focuses on a wide range of people, among them some scientists, a house wife, a simple farmhand, and some monkeys. Super intellect - as it turns out - is not desirable for everyone, a lot of people go insane from suddenly thinking and perceiving too much. People who holds menial jobs now find repetition and lack of challenge intolerable so they quit in droves. While this is not a post apocalypse world it does have a similar feel to it, with government breaking down, people deserting their jobs, and pigs attacking people!

This is a very short novel (175 pages) so not a lot of time is spent on character development, I do like the farmhand plot strand though, it has a [b:Flowers for Algernon|18373|Flowers for Algernon|Daniel Keyes|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1327870353s/18373.jpg|3337594] vibe to it (without the tragic ending). The average housewife's story is also poignant. Andersen's prose is as highly readable as ever, his science background is once again put to good use. I like his explanation (not infodump) of how this Brain Wave came about, for [b:Tau Zero|240617|Tau Zero|Poul Anderson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1173036940s/240617.jpg|598009] fans (often cited as Anderson's best book) there is a little subplot that does something different with the runaway spaceship idea.

This is an excellent little book, well worth anybody's time. It may not actually boost your intelligence but may give it a wee nudge in the right direction! ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
This book may be dated but its questions are not. ( )
  Gregorio_Roth | Dec 5, 2014 |
Originally posted at FanLit:

Poul Andersonâ??s Brain Wave has a great premise ├é┬â?? 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 everyone├é┬â??s IQs (man and animal) escalate dramatically. This sounds like a good thing to me, but perhaps it├é┬â??s not in Poul Anderson├é┬â??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 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Poul Andersonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aldiss, Brian WIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehr, PaulCover artistsecondary 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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:53 -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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