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The Sheep Look Up Hardcover – Nov 2003

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Hardcover, Nov 2003
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 388 pages
  • Publisher: BenBella Books; New edition edition (Nov. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932100059
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932100051
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.1 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,108,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The Sheep Look Up is, in my opinion and for all kinds of reasons, unquestionably the best SF novel ever written." -- John Grant, Joint Editor, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy

"A complex tragic masterpiece. John Brunner is the Rachel Carson of science fiction." -- Ian Watson

"Gripping on both an emotional and intellectual level" -- Booklist

"The best Brunner novel I've yet read . . . staggeringly controlled and dramatic.a work of art!" -- James Blish

About the Author

John Brunner was the author of dozens of science fiction novels, including Shockwave Rider and Stand on Zanzibar, winner of the Hugo Award. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Budge Burgess on 7 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
John Brunner imagines a world so toxic life is barely feasible. Born in 1934, Brunner published his first novel at the age of 17 and had gone on to build a career on pulp space opera adventures. By the 1960's, however, he was learning a more confident and mature literary style and had begun to explore themes of social dysfunction and the impact of science and technology on human life, and was hailed as one of the leading lights in the British New Wave of science fiction.
Brunner's "Stand on Zanzibar" achieved critical acclaim in 1968 for its exploration of overpopulation and global pollution. "The Jagged Orbit", "The Sheep Look Up", and "The Shockwave Ruler" would follow to form a foreboding and visionary quartet of warnings about consumerism, pollution, and climate change. Brunner has been described as doing for science fiction what Rachel Carson did for science fact by pointing to the growing dangers of environmental collapse.
"The Sheep Look Up" is the darkest of Brunner's apocalyptic quartet. North America is on the verge of extinction. It has been transformed into a vast petri dish of contaminants and toxic waste. The population is sickened by poisoned foods and an equally poisonous atmosphere. The car and aeroplane spew pollution into the atmosphere. Climate change has reduced agriculture to a lottery in which farmers try to sway the odds by liberal doses of fertilisers, pesticides, and antibiotics administered to their animals. Medicine has all but collapsed.
A growing resistance movement is fighting a political and guerrilla war against the polluters, but the political status quo fervently denies that climate change is occurring or that the levels of pollution have passed beyond a safe event horizon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. B. E. Gieben on 2 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
There has a re-assessment of the work of SF writer John Brunner in the past ten years - his seminal work, the epic population-crisis novel 'Stand On Zanzibar' was added to the Gollancz-published 'SF Masterworks' series, and is readily available in high-street book shops. However, despite a reprint in 2003 by independent publishers BenBella Books, his prophetic environmental-crisis novel 'The Sheep Look Up' is still less well known to the average SF reader.

Writers such as William Gibson, David Brin and Warren Ellis cite Brunner as an influence, and it is easy to see why. Unlike many of his contemporaries in sixties and seventies SF, Brunner is intimately concerned with world-building and speculative prophecy, and focuses less on the psychological concerns of writers like Philip K. Dick, or the hard science of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov.

In his three best-loved, most oft-cited novels ('Stand On Zanzibar,' 'The Sheep Look Up' and 'The Shockwave Rider') Brunner's intense, multi-voice narratives have more in common with the speculative world-building of Kim Stanley Robinson, or the cyberpunk masters who claim him as their progenitor. The cyberpunks in particular play blatant homage to Brunner - Gibson's techno-futurist street gang in 'Neuromancer,' the Panther Moderns, take their name from characters in 'Stand On Zanzibar.' Warren Ellis, a decade or so later, named a futuristic vehicle operated by the superhero team 'Nextwave' after Brunner's 'The Shockwave Rider.' So what is it about Brunner's writing that these writers identify with?

Speaking about 'The Sheep Look Up' to literary website Salon, Gibson says:"No one except possibly the late John Brunner... has ever described anything in science fiction that is remotely like the reality of 2007 as we know it.
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Format: Paperback
Following on from the award winning overpopulation-themed Stand On Zanzibar, Brunner went onto attempt a dystopic meditation on environmental catastrophe with "The Sheep Look Up". Set in a near-future North America ruined by pollution and seething with insurrectionist tension, the novel follows a large cast of characters as they attempt to survive as best they can in a nation teetering on the edge of disaster.

Much is made of the prophetic nature of Brunner's work and, unfortunately, projections in the book that may have seemed far-fetched at the time of writing have become chillingly prescient. Although unaware of the critical nature of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and instead concentrating on environmental toxicity as his main trope, most if not all of his predictions have some degree of value today: he anticipates the rise of the neo-conservative agendas of Reagan and the Bushes (US neo-imperialism; the imbecillic, soundbite-spewing "Prexy" character), malthusian challenges with agriculture (the importing earth worms and bees to boost collapsing yields, increasing pesticide-resistance), the rise of the organic produce movement (labelled "Puritan Foods" in the novel), militant environmental/anti-globalisation activism (the "Watt" communes and "Trainites"), the tentative moves to low-emission cars (the use of electric and steam-powered cars); even the celebrity fashion for adopting babies from third world countries gets included. A number of these ideas are clearly products of their time - as with "Zanzibar", the war in Vietnam weighed heavily on Brunner's mind and this is reflected in the novel.
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