John Brunner (born 1934)

British writer.

While Brunner has produced a large number of enjoyable adventure and space opera novels [For Neal, although I can't fit it in: as well as Traveller in Black, an unusual collection of fantasy moral tales showing the conflict against entropy], he is best known for his near-future distopias which, without losing our interest in the plot, warn of the dangers of overpopulation (in Stand on Zanzibar), polution (in The Sheep Look Up), and Information Technology (in the Shockwave Rider, based on the non-fiction book, Future Shock by Alvin Toffler), among other things. To show what it is like to live in these futures, Brunner weaves into the main narrative the unconnected stories of oridinary people. This effective technique has the drawback of making the novels harder to get into, but makes them engrossing reading once that is done.

Stand on Zanzibar (1968) uses this technique as well as idiom (very convincing and effective), newscasts, and even advertising from an overcrowded America in which peoples' desire to procreate is controlled by an ever-more desparate government. More thoroughly than any of his (or anyone's) other novels, Zanzibar examines what this future is like. Its only flaw, in common with a number of his other novels (the notable exception being The Sheep Look Up), is that too fantastic (in comparison to the rest of the novel) a solution is required to provide an up-beat ending.

Read on

M.H. Zool