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Stand on Zanzibar    by John Brunner order for
Stand on Zanzibar
by John Brunner
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2021 (1968)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Stand on Zanzibar was originally published in 1968 and won the Hugo Award. The author, John Brunner, was a well-known science fiction writer, under his own name as well as several pseudonyms. This particular book approached the writing of futuristic fiction in a totally new way.

Rather than tell a straightforward story, Brunner puts the reader inside a world that has been taken over by big corporations. There are many characters who are mostly driven by ambition and greed, and the main character, a vice president of a company run by a ruthless ninety-one year old woman, is no exception. The short chapters include advertisements for her company as well as background information about various people, and how they deal with their doomed environment. Poor people will do anything for food, and random killings are frequent and unpunished by any authorities. The situation of women is truly abysmal.

Brunner has made some astounding predictions about his future world of 2010. There are seven billion people on Earth in his book. We do have that many people living now, but although things are dire in our real world, governments still function in most countries, and enough food is produced to feed everyone, although many do starve. His invention of the Black ruler named Obomi, a name that is so close to our own President Obama, is weirdly prescient, even though Obomi ruled over a fictional African country. Some of his technological inventions are surprising and interesting, but his writing approach was apparently the innovation that earned him the Hugo.

I didn't enjoy reading the book, however. None of the characters are likeable, and although Black people in the book seem to have attained more of an equal footing with Whites, I didn't like reading Brunner's take on the condition of women. Brunner writes of a dark world being destroyed by powerful people. One can never predict everything about the future, though, such as the pandemic which is affecting our present world in uncomfortable ways. The book is long and uses a lot of made-up words. I found it dated, dreary, and difficult to read, and I wonder how many people will be attracted to this sort of a dystopian novel during our present challenging times.

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