Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Some novels should only be read once. On my second read, I wanted to downgrade my estimation of the novel by a star.
I felt sad.
Sure. Shalmaneser was and still is my go-to model for a hell of a kick-ass supercomputer developing true intelligence and will, with all of it's concomitant problems, such as addiction and hallucination. (How very 1969 of a novel, Mr. Brunner.)
And yes, when I first read this back in 1990, I was surprised and oh so pleased by all the counterculture, drug use, clandestine exploration of assassination techniques, and heavy exploration of genetics within a sociological backdrop.
I'm only reminded of the great effort that I had to put into reading it. Both times.
I can honestly say that I'll be giving Brunner props forever for all the effort he put into all the digressions, the advertisements, the worldbuilding, and the dystopian outlook of an extremely overpopulated world. I can't say that I particularly liked its readability, though. It annoyed. Greatly. But I can step back and admire it from afar and pray I'm never called on to read the novel again.
On the other hand, I did get into Donald's story easier this time, and Norman with Chad C. Mulligan kicks all sorts of ass from the beginning to almost the very last line in the novel. (What can I say? I prefer letting the computer get the last laugh. It usually does, anyway.)
My hat goes off to the novel, once again, but I'm now hesitating as to whether I'd put this at the top or even in the top twenty novels that I've loved. Even though, in memory, I always put it there before.
Hell, the novel was one of the first fifty novels that cemented my love of SF, and it certainly pushed me off the bridge to go on a hell of a John Brunner spree where I wouldn't touch any other novelist for eight months. I can stand in awe of Stand on Zanzibar all I want, but honestly, I think I LOVED The Sheep Look Up and Shockwave Rider MUCH better. There's a great deal to be said about readability and adventure. Just having a great premise doesn't always mean you've got a truly timeless story.
(I'm speaking to you, Mr. Love Aerosol.)
"God damn you for crazy idiots! All of you! You're not fit to manage your silly lives! I know you're fools- have you watched you and wept for you. And... Oh my god!"
His voice cracked to a breathing moan. "I love you! I've tried not to, and I can't help it. I love you all..."
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