Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Another Hugo award winner.
I approached this book with some reservations, as I had tried to read this book years ago never getting beyond page ten, and I have seen this book mentioned on at least one or two lists of unreadable sf novels. I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself enjoying most of the book. It isn't one of the most readable novels around and it takes some time to get used to it.
The books tells about a fairly near future (from a sixties point of view) when overpopulation is rampant, unemployment is more common than working, crime and terrorism are everyday fear, genetic manipulation is either a threat to human existence or the last way enabling the survival of the human race. The story is told on several segments. Some of the chapters, titled ”continuity” tell the main plot line of the novel, some of the chapters ”Tracking with Closeups ” present glimpses to the life of other charters living in the world, most of them are unconnected to the main plot. In addition there are chapters called ”context” which give background information of the world, including chapters from popular and scholarly books discussing the world and finally fourth style of chapters are those called The Happening World are flashes of the world, for example short news headlines. The unusual structure took some time to get used to, but it worked very well. The main plot line dealt with a fictional African country called Beninia which seems too good to be true. No crime, no racial prejudice, no hate crimes. Another plot line deals with a supposed major breakthrough in genetic engineering. The plot lines weren't as important as the vividly described world and I found that the most interesting segments were “Tracking with Closeups”, which dealt mainly with the background. They presented very interesting glimpses to an interesting world. The writing was fine and interesting, and even the fair amount of made up words didn't hurt. This book was really a pleasant surprise.

650 pp.

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