the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘John Brunner’ Category

stand on zanzStand on Zanzibar, by John Brunner

published in 1968 (Hugo winner for best novel)

where I got it: purchased used

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Stand on Zanzibar is a New Wave science fiction novel. According to Wikipedia:

“New Wave is a movement in science fiction produced in the 1960s and 1970s and characterized by a high degree of experimentation, both in form and in content, a “literary” or artistic sensibility, and a focus on “soft” as opposed to hard science. New Wave writers often saw themselves as part of the modernist tradition and sometimes mocked the traditions of pulp science fiction. . . “

 

It’s always fun when authors predict a future that is the future for them, but is the past for us. Like when a book takes place in 2010, or a tv show from the 70s takes place in 1999, and now we get to see what they got right and what they got hilariously wrong. Stand on Zanzibar takes place in 2010, and it’s a little creepy what Brunner got right.  First, a few words about the title. The title is refers to this phrase that has to do with overpopulation:

 

“. . . if you allow for every codder [man] and shiggy [woman] and appleofmyeye [beloved child] a space one foot by two you could stand us all on the six hundred forty square mile surface of the island of Zanzibar.”

 

And overpopulation is a huge theme of Stand on Zanzibar. Earth has 7 to 8 billion people, The United States is bursting at the seams with 400 million. Many single family homes have been chopped up into smaller and smaller often one room residences, and any kind of privacy costs a fortune.  To keep populations down, most states in the US have instituted some type of eugenics law, where for example, if you have the genes for hemophilia or color blindness, you are not allowed to have children. Abortions are easy to obtain, and often forced. There are options for adoption, but many couples simply opt to not have children, while openly resenting the family across the street who was approved for two children.

 

Many of the subplots involve attitudes about having children, race relations, post-colonialism, and populations turning into sheep. Once i realized the timing connections, the out-dated post colonialism attitudes of some of the characters became clear, as the 1960s was a time of British crown colonies gaining independence and becoming what we now know as Lesotho, Guyana, Sierra Leone and Jamaica, to name a few. A lot of privileged Brits were suddenly being told they weren’t in charge anymore.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.