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AHA! The Insightful Fiction Of John Brunner

Copyright 2010-2011, 2018 by Richard J. Ballard -- All Rights Reserved.

IMO great science fiction emphasizes what if human consequences instead of technology. In 1970 I joined a Science Fiction In The Atomic Age reading class. John Brunner's Stand On Zanzibar was the most compelling selection; previously I had not encountered any novel like it. I started reading Brunner's other science fiction novels. Some don't digest properly on first reading, but all are memorable and comprise a (later) nourishing second read. And Brunner's historical novel The Great Steamboat Race IMO is comparable to author Samuel Clemens' (Mark Twain's) autobiographical Life On The Mississippi.

IMO John Brunner's most prescient science fiction novels: Stand On Zanzibar | The Jagged Orbit | The Sheep Look Up | The Shockwave Rider

Stand On Zanzibar [1969]
Pre-multimedia textual soundbited poortrayall of our chaotic future. 5 STAR!

The Jagged Orbit [1969]
Poortrayall of United States fragmented society careening like an arcade ball
within a field of special interest hostile bumpers. Presented in English textual
soundbites (digestible mouthfuls). 5 STAR!

The Sheep Look Up [1972]
Poortrayall of United States societal reaction to widespread toxic ecodisaster. 5 STAR!

The Shockwave Rider [1975]
Poortrayall of United States computerized hostile government. 1975 plot includes use
of worm cyberweapon against internetworked computers. IMO people who have read
Brunner's The Jagged Orbit might recognize Brunner's functional humor incorporating
named talking dogs into the The Shockwave Rider's conclusion. Similarity (rogue
hacker protagonist) to author William Gibson's award-winning c1984 novel Neuromancer.
Similarity (government-trained cyberwarrior fugitive) to the 2000-2002 television series
Dark Angel starring Jessica Alba. 5 STAR!

These novels address government's (subtle?) steerage of society: The Squares Of The City | Polymath | The Long Result | Traveler In Black

The Squares Of The City [1965]
Tale of an outsider reduced to a pawn in a political game. While other pieces leave the game board,
the pawn advances despite deliberate distraction and threats from forces beyond his control.
Allusions to Iran under Pahlevi? 5 STAR!

Polymath [1974]
A space exploration tale about civilized society's thin veneer cracking under poverty. 4 STAR.

The Long Result [1965]
A bureaucratic detective story that questions xenophobia and unwarranted pride within an affluent society. 3 STAR.

Traveler In Black [1971]
The tale of a mystical traveler who imposes order upon chaos by enforcing Be careful what you request.
Theme similarity to author Ed Simon's c1977 Necronomicon and to author Larry Niven's c1978 The Magic
Goes Away
. 4 STAR.

IMO these four volumes illustrate John Brunner's writing flexibility: From This Day Forward | Three Complete Novels | The Great Steamboat Race | A Maze Of Stars

From This Day Forward [1972]
This short story collection contains 13 treatments for the Midas plague (too much). 5 STAR!

Three Complete Novels [1988]
c1988 Children of the Thunder poortrays the genesis of persuasive criminality [impoverished amoral
adolescents remorselessly pursue simple goals]; c1984 The Tides of Time poortrays faster-than-light
astronauts becalmed in time's tidepools [IMO an allusion to civilian mundane life after experiencing
(para)military life in the fast lane]; and c1982 The Crucible of Time poortrays an alien society
struggling against changing global climate ... and obsession. 5 STAR!

The Great Steamboat Race [1983]
An exceptionally well researched and well written historical novel based upon the July 4th 1870 weekend
actual race from New Orleans to St. Louis conducted between the steamboats Natchez and Robert E. Lee.
Brunner's novel is remarkable both for its understanding of steamboat navigation upon the 1870s hazardous
Mississippi River, and also for its character development spanning the entire range of post Civil War
society. IMO the novel's excellence makes it comparable to author Samuel Clemens' (Mark Twain's)
autobiographical Life On The Mississippi. 5 STAR!

A Maze Of Stars [1991]
Novel about a sentient starship studying intragalactic cultures while socializing with short hop passengers
(i.e., birds of passage) during its voyage. (Poor Stripe!) IMO resembles a (so-called psychic) vampire
pondering his near-immortality amidst mortal passing acquaintances. Some theme similarity to author
Larry Niven's c1976 A World Out Of Time. 4 STAR.

ACE Double Novels included two complete novels printed back-to-back in a single softcover volume (here paired top and bottom): Echo In The Skull/Rocket To Limbo | Meeting At Infinity/Beyond The Silver Sky | Sanctuary In The Sky/The Secret Martians | Slavers Of Space/Dr. Futurity

Echo In The Skull / Rocket To Limbo by John Brunner / Allen E. Nourse [1959]
Echo In The Skull poortrays a young woman disoriented by sentient alien memories. Rocket To Limbo
poortrays Earthmen not trained for their first extraterrestrial encounter. Both novels 3 STAR.

Meeting At Infinity / Beyond The Silver Sky by John Brunner / Kenneth Bulmer [1961]
Technological merchant princes collide against mind over matter in Meeting At Infinity. Technological
aquamen battle a shrinking evolving aquasphere in Beyond The Silver Sky (plot similarity to author
James Blish's c1952 classic short story Surface Tension). Both novels 4 STAR.

Sanctuary In The Sky / The Secret Martians by John Brunner / Jack Sharkey [1960]
The daily politics of maintaining spaceport neutrality mask a larger issue in Sanctuary In The Sky.
An intuitive advertising executive is drafted into interplanetary intrigue in The Secret Martians.
Both novels 3 STAR.

Slavers Of Space / Dr. Futurity by John Brunner / Philip K. Dick [1960]
One of Earth's privileged seeks a cure for the steerilized blues in Slavers Of Space; 3 STAR.
A 20th Century physician is tossed into a socially-compliant, eugenically-controlled, backward-looking
tribal future in Dr. Futurity; 4 STAR.

The left novel triad deals heavily with psychology; the right novel triad shares a naive exploration common theme: Players At The Game Of People | The Whole Man/Telepathist | The 100th Millennium/Edge Of Time | Catch A Falling Star

Players At The Game Of People [1980]
A curious tale of empowered vicarious employment. 3 STAR.

The Whole Man [1964, USA]
Telepathist [1965, England]
A somber poortrayall of telepathic empathy and rethinking yourself. c1964 published in USA
as The Whole Man; c1965 published in England as Telepathist. 4 STAR.

The 100th Millennium / Edge Of Time by John Brunner / David Grinnell [1959]
Travelers undertake a pastoral quest seeking to avert planetwide tragedy in The 100th Millennium
(some similarity to author J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit). Scientists create an accelerated universe
and vicariously experience aliens' lives in Edge Of Time (some similarity to author Theodore Sturgeon's
c1941 classic short story Microcosmic God). Both novels 4 STAR.

Catch A Falling Star [1968]
An expansion of John Brunner's c1959 novel The 100th Millennium. c1968 tale of travelers on a
pastoral quest seeking to avert planetwide tragedy (some similarity to author J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit).
4 STAR.

Tales about aliens affecting humanity: Double, Double | The Atlantic Abomination | Age Of Miracles | Dramaturges Of Yan

Double, Double [1969]
A tale about hunting a fissioning shapechanger. IMO the environment deliberately is depicted as drab and dull.
IMO this novel (and especially its ending) is a valid allegory for recent arrivals' behavior within a resource-depleted
environment (and misery loves company). 3 STAR.

The Atlantic Abomination [1960]
Tale about oceanographers unknowingly awakening an ancient alien monster. Theme similarity to author Larry Niven's
c1966 World of Ptavvs. And in Issac Asimov's award-winning c1952 novel Foundation And Empire, a human mutant
calling himself The Mule (a Missouri favorite) exerts total emotional control over other humans. 4 STAR.

Age Of Miracles [1973]
Tale poortraying global chaos following an alien successful invasion. Extensive depiction of human reaction
to indifferent alien superior technology. 5 STAR!

Dramaturges Of Yan [1972]
Human colonists struggle to understand a post-industrial fulfilled alien race; IMO allusions to conflict
between Western and Oriental cultures. IMO similarities to author James Tiptree Jr.'s c1985 novel
Brightness Falls From The Air (a real pain in the neck) and to author Roger Zelansky's c1963 classic
short story A Rose For Ecclesiastes. 4 STAR.

Tales about techology's effects upon society: The Infinitive Of Go | The World Swappers | Times Without Number | The Webs Of Everywhere

The Infinitive Of Go [1980]
Technology implements a zero sum game having an infinite number of outcomes. Some outcomes differ
subtly, some outcomes are insane and some outcomes are alien. 4 STAR.

The World Swappers [1959]
Tale of technological elite's (possesses matter transporter and derivitive immortality) struggles against
a domineering commercial autocrat, while preparing human society for alien first contact. IMO plot and
style similar to Isaac Asimov's award-winning c1951 novel Foundation. 4 STAR.

Times Without Number [1969]
A historical treatment of privileged insiders who never learn [some plot similarity to author Philip K. Dick's
c1960 Dr. Futurity (earlier)]. 5 STAR!

The Webs Of Everywhere [1974]
Tale about society transmuting after it loses both its privacy and its history. 4 STAR.

Tales about individuals drawn into puzzling situations: Born Under Mars | Quicksand | The Stardroppers | Bedlam Planet

Born Under Mars [1967]
Tale about a Martian flight engineer drawn forcibly into an intrigue involving his former mentor.
IMO Martian culture is depicted as similar to Australian culture. [Brunner depicts Australian culture
as different in several of his novels (e.g., Entry To Elsewhen (later).] 3 STAR. (IMO this novel
has a weak ending.)

Quicksand [1967]
A psychiatrist plods through the delta of his own misgivings while he treats a remarkable
young woman patient. The woman patient's confusing naivete differentiates Quicksand
from Vladimir Nabokov's classic novel Lolita. 3 STAR. (In retrospect a good story, but
IMO the psychiatrist's nearly continuous internal dialogue constitutes burdensome reading.)

The Stardroppers [1972]
A cultish fad develops around a personal appliance that purportedly allows people to eavesdrop on
star conversations. Then cultists publicly begin popping out of existence ... Some similarity to author
Lewis Padgett's c1943 classic short story Mimsy Were The Borogoves. 4 STAR. (FWIW Brunner's novel
emphasis on steam-powered cars also reminds me of musician Donald Fagen's 1993 album Kamakiriad.)

Bedlam Planet [1968]
When Jack is an outsider, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
A tale about instinct rescuing logic (follow your gut). 4 STAR.

(Para)military tales: The Stone That Never Came Down | Entry To Elsewhen | The Avengers Of Carrig | Total Eclipse

The Stone That Never Came Down [1973]
Unemployment is epidemic ... Infrastructure lies unfinished or crumbling ... Neighborhood zealot bands
demand tithes while forcing proper social behavior ... Troops are dispatched as general strikes paralyze
entire cities ... Italy closes its borders ... Sabers rattle throughout Europe. Can a laboratory's experimental
drug that facilitates informed unbiased decision-making turn the bellicose tide? 5 STAR!

Entry To Elsewhen [1972]
Contains three separate stories about military domination and about deliberate suppression of
initiative within oppressed populations. Host Age: How do you defeat an extra-terrestrial
Terminator? Lung Fish: A spaceship's crew learns the limitations of psychological manipulation.
No Other Gods But Me: Good will and genetic serendipity battle a conqueror's bravado.
4 STAR.

The Avengers Of Carrig [1969]
Space invaders enslave a backward planet for its mineral riches
while the Corps Galactia schemes to turn the tide. 3 STAR.

Total Eclipse [1974]
On a distant planet an international team of human archeologists try to comprehend
the rise, fall and extinction of a technologically-advanced alien civilization. Back on
Earth, nations squabble about economics and the value of space exploration. 3 STAR.
(IMO the protagonist's gifted intuition is not wholly believable.)

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