Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stand On Zanzibar

What will the world be like in 40+ years? In the mid-1960’s John Brunner must have asked himself that question before he wrote the 1969 Hugo Winning novel Stand On Zanzibar, which takes place in 2010. In his book the draft is still going on, pot and other hallucinogens are as widely used as cigarettes were in the 60’s, people pop tranquilizers all the times, sabotage is an everyday occurrence, styles are polychromatic, whales are extinct, people no longer use gas powered cars, television is holographic, and eugenics is one of the driving issues in the world. (Brunner also has a president named Obomi.) Brunner basically expanded on the hippy dippy world of the 1960’s.

The 500 pages of the book were not my cup of tea, but I did enjoy some aspects. Brunner billed the book as a “non-novel.” In spots, he has pages of dialogue without identifying the speaker or without adding any description. In other spots he has sections of a television broadcast. There are additional “non-novel” techniques sprinkled throughout the book. I see how some of this way of thinking may have been a precursor to TV shows like Lost and even multi-platform storytelling.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

What one ought to learn is how to extract patterns! ....You don’t have to know everything. You simply need to know where to find it when necessary.

Children are a pipeline into the posthumous future. So are books, works of art, notoriety and sundry other alternatives.
Governments don’t change things,” she said, “Only time does that.”
You have many years to live—do the things you will be proud to remember when you’re old"
I continue to make a dent in my goal to read all the Hugo Winning novels.

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