Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book Review: Stand on Zanzibar

Last week I took some time to read Stand on Zanzibar, a 1969 science fiction novel by John Brunner, dealing with a dystopian future and issues of overpopulation.

The book had a lot of really interesting features: first the structure, each chapter fell into one of four categories, either focusing on the main narrative, supporting characters who show up later in the book, conversations had either by the main characters or other denizens of the world and finally chapters made up of slogans, news clippings, speech excerpts, etc. In the end the effect is to create an incredibly dense world where the reader gets a pretty comprehensive view of the state of the world in this setting.

The main characters are two roommates, one a VP for a major company and the other a trust fund layabout who is a lot more than he seems. Almost the first two thirds of the book is set up, but when you move into the last act of the book everything starts moving very quickly.

My favourite bits (not to be misunderstood as things I would necessarily like in our world), include 1) a television adaptation wherein the audience can have their own images/voices imprinted over the main characters in television series, news stories, films, etc., called Mr. And Mrs. Everywhere, 2) the concept of Muckers – being people who have gone Amok and basically start killing everyone around them, and how these psychotics are becoming a problem the world over, and finally 3) the fact that one of the supporting characters, Chad C. Mulligan seems to be a pre-curser to one of my favourite comic book characters Spider Jerusalem.

The book took me about a week and a half to read, but in the end was definitely worth the effort.

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