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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

on 25 February 2017
If you're looking for hard labor, go no further
If you are feeling righteous give this book a go
If you believe the classics deserve special attention then good luck
And if you think battling against the odds will get you through God's pearly gates then give this book a go.
Personally life is too short. I found it tough from the off, and it never lket up. Occasionally I thought I'd got the flood, but then it tripped me up. There is no one character I could relate to, no one I could cheer for.
Classic it might he, but hard work it id
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on 17 March 2014
I have been looking for a copy of this book for more years than I remember.

It is a must read for any with an interest in environmental matters - and for fans of science fiction. To say that it is/was prophetic in some ways is an understatement.

Having bought the book for a ridiculous amount and to find that it is being sold in some instances for nearly ten times the price can only been seen as serendipity.

A rare treat to rare and a rare book indeed!
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on 21 March 2015
I read this in the 80s and it made such an impression on me I never forgot it. Considering when it was written the author was very far sighted. It is still valid today.
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on 29 September 2017
Timeless classic. Predicts climate change, gwot, gig economy and so much more.
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on 3 April 2016
John Brunner gives us a nightmarish view of what could happen to the Earth of the future which is very relevant to how things are shaping up right now on our planet. A good read if a not a depressing image of times ahead.
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on 8 January 2004
When I was about 12 I had a copy of this book given to me and enjoyed the bit I read but didn't really appreciate all of it. Now as I revisit it some 25 years later I am just blown away - this book is more pertainent now than ever. It fully explores what happens as a culture destroys itself - G W Bush should read this before he decides to ignore the Kyoto agreement completely. And the last paragraph has to be one of the best closings I have ever read - quirky, humourous but very dark.
Buy this book, read it - think about it - you will loose sleep - then read it again.
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on 26 April 2014
It you only ever read two John Brunner Books then you must read this and Stand On Zanzibar. Both make highly effective use of a multi-strand narrative long before it became fashionable in SF. You are pulled through the book at a rapid pace by the seemingly disjointed short blocks of text and mini chapters.

It amazes me that this book fell out print so soon after publication. We should not let that happen again - as long as print matters in our increasingly digital age. Oh and if you want Brunner's take on things digital then try The Shockwave Rider.
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on 14 June 2011
This paints a depressing, polluted future that isn't too hard to believe.
It is futurist rather than science fiction, there is no real science beyond what we already have, just a look at how the world could have turned out.

Some of the ideas are nice in a dark sort of way with the effects of pollution taken beyond anything we have but in a logical way, no melodrama just a natural progression.

The characters are well written and behave is a believable manner.

There are plenty of villains from the eco-terrorists to the government to the profiteering companies and even, to a lesser extent, the unrealistic return to nature people; every group is examined and their actions woven into the plot.

There are a few different plot threads kept going right to the end and the ending itself has a few surprises.

This is like Stand On Zanzibar in that it is unrelentingly dark but I found it a more interesting read, it does lack the humour that made The Jagged Orbit a much more enjoyable book but as with those books the writing is excellent and Brunner knows how to pick a vision and stick with it right to the end.

Dark and depressing but a great read.
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on 7 October 2008
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. In addition, like his contemporaries, he utterly failed to anticipate the collapse of the Soviet Union, thus Communism features overly strongly as the background antagonistic force. Having said that, with the likes of Chavez in power in Venezuela, the rise of Latin America as an enemy of the US could yet be realised.

Readers will immediately recognise Brunner's distinctive multi-strand narrative structure from "Zanzibar", which echoes that of early 20th century modernist author John Dos Passos (in particular, his Manhattan Transfer ), or more contemporaneously, the films of director Robert Altman. The story is broken down into multiple chapters of varying length, from a single sentence to a handful of pages. The chapters consist of either significant quotations, self-contained vignettes, or small portions of a continuing narrative, many of which intertwine with other narrative strands later on. Unlike "Zanzibar", the chapters are grouped together in chronological sections by month, thus covering an entire year in the fictional world; the effect of which is to present the world descent into chaos as a series of gradual, incremental changes and to emphasise the, often obscure, interconnectedness of disparate events.

This narrative style is both the novel's greatest asset and also its fundamental failing. As with "Zanzibar", it uses multiple characters and viewpoints to create an atmosphere, and to extrapolate the situation in the wider world from a series of localised snapshots. However, it sorely lacks the former novel's narrative focus. "Sheep" simply doesn't have as strong a pool of "main" characters as the likes of Donald Hogan or Norman House. As a result, the reader's attention is diffused amongst a larger number of lesser characters, whose plot threads are often so short and of such relatively little immediate consequence, it becomes a challenge to follow or to truly care about any of them. You find yourself forgetting who people are, which narrative arcs will need to be recalled later and which can be safely ignored as mere atmospheric detail. Even the Brunner cipher Austin Train fails to truly engage. Part of the appeal of "Zanzibar" came from the evocative exerpts from the fictional political works of the philosopher character Chad C. Mulligan; reading them in between the narrative chapters invoked the sense of Mulligan as an over-arching presence throughout, thus when he actually appears as a character in the narrative, the event takes on greater significance. "Sheep" lacks this feature, therefore the reader is forced to accept that Train actually is this erudite and influential philosopher who can change the world, without seeing a great deal of evidence for it in the text.

Couple all of the above with the fact that it is almost unremittingly grim and nihilistic, it's a much harder read than "Zanzibar" and thus doesn't quite attain that novel's heights. Nonetheless, even just for its strong environmental message, this novel deserves, nay DEMANDS a timely reprint (Gollancz SF Masterworks take note!). Recommended.
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on 27 March 2010
I read this book as a teenager and hunted it down on Amazon recently.

Revisiting it I am struck by how many 'hits' the author makes in his dystopian vision of the near future where man has ruined the environment. There's a President spookily similar to GW Bush, and some of the statements by the industrial spokespeople have actually been used by industry since th book was written in the early 1970's.

It's writing style is episodic, flicking from one set of characters to another along a gradually converging set of story arcs.

Quite frankly if I had the money I'd buy the movie rights, it is the '1984' of environmental meltdown.
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