Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Stand on Zanzibar cover 1st Stand on Zanzibar (1968)
Winner 1969 Hugo Award for Best Novel

Ballantine Books paperback 1st printing (left)
Ballantine books paperback 1970s edition (right)
both 650 pages
Stand on Zanzibar cover 1970s

From the back cover of the 1st edition paperback:
       There are seven billion plus of our species, crowding the surface of twenty first century Earth in an age of acceleratubes, Moonbase Zero, intelligent Computers, mass marketed psychedelics, politics by assassination, scientists who burn incense to appease volcanoes -- hive living hysteria that is reaching its bursting point all over the world.  But a hive seldom knows its own madness until it's too late.
       Employing a dazzling range of literary techniques, John Brunner has created a future world as real as this morning's newspaper -- moving, sensory, impressionistic, as jagged as the times it portrays, this book is a real mind stretcher -- and yet beautifully orchestrated to give a vivid picture of the whole.
       Read it with care -- move in with it -- this may be where we're headed...

From the back cover of the 1970s paperback:
       Donald Hogan was a mild-mannered student, a dilettante intellectual, at least that's what everyone was supposed to think he was.
       But Donald knew otherwise.
       He knew he was a spy.
       But what Donald didn't know was that in a world overpopulated by the billions -- in a society squeezed into hive living madness by megabrain computers, mass marketed psychedelics, and eugenics -- where everyone was struggling for life...he himself was programmed for death!

We were going to read this book for group discussion on July 26, 2000.  This book was unavailable from the publisher at that time.

Stand on Zanzibar is a dense, complex narrative, weaving together independent story lines, including the stories of Donald Hogan, a government agent on an insidious mission, and Norman House, a black executive traveling to the Third World.

When published, Stand on Zanzibar was unusual both in its narrative techniques and its length.  (600+ page science fiction novels, while all too common today, were unheard of prior to 1970.  Stand on Zanzibar was nearly as long as the other four nominees for the 1969 Hugo award combined.

John Brunner (1934-1995) was a central figure in British science fiction during the 1960's and 70's.

1969 Hugo Award for novel Stand on Zanzibar

Brunner began his career as a prolific writer of space operas, but soon moved on to more sophisticated, often dismal, visions of the future, playing a significant role in science fiction's "New Wave" movement.

His most important novels were thematically related dystopias, conveying Brunner's fears for the future. Stand on Zanzibar dealt with runaway overpopulation.  The Jagged Orbit (1969) addressed race relations and the influence of the military industrial complex. The Sheep Look Up (1972) showed the results of rampant pollution. The Shockwave Rider (1975) considered the dehumanizing effects of rapidly advancing computer and communications technology. The Shockwave Rider is often credited with being the first work of fiction to anticipate computer viruses.

Brunner's first novel, at the age of 17, was Galactic Storm (1951), published under the house name of Gill Hunt.  Early in his career he also published stories under the pseudonyms John Loxmith, Kilian Houston Brunner, and Trevor Staines.

Between 1959 and 1965 Brunner published more than two dozens novels with Ace Books, usually in its Ace Double format, both under his own name and his pseudonym Keith Woodcott.  Early novels under his own name included Threshold of Eternity (1959), The Hundredth Millennium (1959, revised as Catch a Falling Star), Echo in the Skull (1959, revised as Give Warning to the World), The World Swappers (1959), The Brink (1959), Slavers of Space (1960, revised as Into the Slave Nebula), The Skynappers (1960), The Atlantic Abomination (1960), Sanctuary in the Sky (1960), Meeting at Infinity (1961), The Super Barbarians (1962), Times Without Number (1962), The Rites of Ohe (1963), The Astronauts Must Not Land (1963, revised as More Things in Heaven), The Dreaming Earth (1963), Listen! The Stars! (1963, revised as The Stardroppers), The Wanton of Argus (1963), Endless Shadow (1964, revised as Manshape), To Conquer Chaos (1964), Enigma from Tantalus (1965), Day of the Star Cities (1965, revised as Age of Miracles), and The Long Result (1965).

Early novels published under the pseudonym Keith Woodcott included I Speak for Earth (1961), The Ladder in the Sky (1962), The Psionic Menace (1963), and The Martian Sphinx (1965).

The great majority of Brunner's works were stand-alone stories.  His only forays into writing series were the Interstellar Empire sequence, which included the novels The Space-Time Juggler (1963) and The Altar on Asconel (1965), and the Zarathustra Refugee Planets sequence, comprised of Secret Agent of Terra (1962, revised as The Avengers of Carrig), Castaways' World (1963, revised as Polymath), and The Repairmen of Cyclops (1965).  Later in his career, Brunner followed up his novel The Crucible of Time (1983) with a sequel, The Tides of Time (1984).

Brunner began to break out of his space opera formula with two novels published in the mid-1960's.  The first of these was The Whole Man (1964, alternate title Telepathist), in which the protagonist attempts to overcome his psychological deficiencies using telepathy.  The second was The Squares of the City (1965), in which the characters' actions parallel the pieces' movements in an actual chess game.  Both The Whole Man and The Squares of the City were nominated for the Hugo award for best novel.  Over the next ten years, Brunner wrote his most significant novels, Stand on Zanzibar, The Jagged Orbit, The Sheep Look Up, and The Shockwave Rider.

During this time period, he also wrote the novels A Planet of Your Own (1966), Born Under Mars (1967), The Productions of Time (1967), Quicksand (1967), Bedlam Planet (1968), Father of Lies (1968), Double, Double (1969), Timescoop (1969), The Evil that Men Do (1969), The Gaudy Shadows (1970), The Wrong End of Time (1971), The Dramaturges of Yan (1972), The Stone That Never Came Down (1973), Total Eclipse (1974), and Web of Everywhere (1974).

After 1975 the quantity and, by most accounts, quality of Brunner's output declined.  Brunner's health was failing and he is reported to have become embittered by his lack of commercial success, despite the critical acclaim his work had received.  His modest sales levels were perhaps attributable to his challenging style of prose and his left-wing, at times anti-American, outlook.

Later novels included The Infinitive of Go (1980), Players at the Game of People (1980), While There's Hope (1982), The Shift Key (1987), The Days of March (1988), Children of the Thunder (1989), A Case of Painter's Ear (1991), A Maze of Stars (1991), and Muddle Earth (1993).

Brunner's collections of short fiction include No Future in It (1962), Now Then (1965), No Other Gods But Me (1966), Out of My Mind (1967), Not Before Time (1968), The Traveler in Black (1971, also titled The Compleat Traveler in Black), Entry to Elsewhen (1972), From This Day Forward (1972), Time-Jump (1973), The Book of John Brunner (1976), Foreign Constellations (1980), and The Best of John Brunner (1988).

Brunner also wrote a number of novels outside of the science fiction and fantasy genres, including The Crutch of Memory (1964), A Plague on Both Your Causes (1969, alternate title Backlash), Black is the Color (1969), The Devil's Work (1970), Honky in the Woodpile (1971), and The Great Steamboat Race (1983).

Finally, Brunner published several books of poetry, including Trip: A Cycle of Poems (1966), Life in an Explosive Forming Press (1970), A Hastily Thrown-together Bit of Zork (1974), Tomorrow May Be Even Worse (1978), and A New Settlement of Old Scores (1983).

Thanks to Aaron for researching and writing this page

SF Site Featured Review: Stand on Zanzibar
Classic Science Fiction Reviews: Stand on Zanzibar
John Brunner: Stand on Zanzibar - an infinity plus review

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This page was last updated January 01, 2009