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The Stone That Never Came Down by John…

The Stone That Never Came Down (1973)

by John Brunner

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(Original Review, 1980-09-12)

The classic tests on this subject were done something like 25 years ago, and became sufficiently well known that by the late 60's they were turning up (in cut-down versions with animal subjects) in high school science fairs. The test was fairly simple: a sensor was rigged to detect Rapid Eye Movements (characteristic of the deepest (fourth) level of sleep and generally simultaneous with dreams) and attached to various devices to wake up the sleeper whenever REM began. Other than this, the subjects were allowed to have whatever they considered a normal sleep period. Within a few days the number of attempted REM periods went from ~4 to >20 and the subjects were reported as becoming extremely irritable.

John Brunner wrote a story around this idea in one of the SPECTRUM anthologies (about what happened when someone didn't react with irritation and what happened when they stopped preventing him from dreaming) and has brought up the idea intermittently since then, particularly in THE STONE THAT NEVER CAME DOWN. Unfortunately, no one at the time thought to do the obvious control of waking people at completely random intervals, beginning with ~4/night and working up to >20 per night; when this was done the behavioural results (to the extent that behavior can be quantified and compared) were reported as being basically the same as in the REM experiments. At about this time, however, it had been found that for many people 2 3-hour periods of sleep separated by a short period of activity were as effective as one 8-hour period. It seems that regularity is as important a factor as duration in measuring the value of sleep. The one person I know who consistently gets by on ~5 hours seems to take basically the same 5 hours (0300-0800) every day, both at slack periods and during SF conventions. (He may be helped by the fact that he's basically a very tranquil type, though there is Shapiro's example of the frenetic type who survives on 4 hours. There are a number of cases of non-circadian patterns being adopted for various reasons; I have only apocryphal information on the person who allegedly converted his week to 6 28-hour days (his sleep period cycled completely around the day every week) but Frederik Pohl in his autobiography describes deciding that he just didn't have enough time for writing and going on a 48-hour "day", thus getting both time to deal with mundanes during their active periods and quiet periods in which to write undisturbed. There are also some developments which I've just seen the first glimmerings of; it seems that researchers have pinned down two nuclei in the hypothalamus as being potentially responsible for circadian rhythms (specific hormone release cycles corresponding to activity cycles have been found). I've gone through so many magazines in the post-Noreascon catchup that I've no certainty of where I found this or who was involved; has anyone seen any more detailed information?

[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.] ( )
  antao | Nov 11, 2018 |
If there was a way to expand a way of thinking, of allowing people to see the broad strokes and big picture of their actions, how would people react to those new insights? Cynical and hopeful at the same time; not one of Brunner's best novels, but a good read. ( )
  BruceCoulson | Mar 17, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Brunnerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Freas, KellyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For each generation, there is a writer meant to bend the rules of what we know. Hugo Award winner (Best Novel, STAND ON ZANZIBAR) and British science fiction master John Brunner remains one of the most influential and respected authors of all time, and now E-Reads is pleased to re-introduce many of his classic works. For readers familiar with his vision, it's a chance to re-examine his thoughtful worlds and words, while for new readers, Brunner's work proves itself the very definition of timeless. The world is awash in civic decay, military coups and revolutionary governments, bands of believers ('Godheads') roaming the streets and turning plastic crosses into assault weapons. One scientist has discovered a new kind of viral drug, VC, which has the power to drastically alter the human mind. It could save civilization but at what cost? And who has the right to make a decision about whether or not to use it? Brunner at his thought-provoking, action-packed best.… (more)

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