Stand on Zanzibar
There are seven billion-plus humans crowding the surface of 21st century Earth. It is an age of intelligent computers, mass-market psychedelic drugs, politics conducted by assassination, scientists who burn incense to appease volcanoes…all the hysteria of a dangerously overcrowded world, portrayed in a dazzlingly inventive style.
Thirty-year old predictions have a habit of going stale, but not John Brunner's startling panoramic view of the year 2010. Even where he got the future we almost inhabit wrong, he understood where things were oing--"Conincidence You weren't paying attention to the other half of what was going on"--and his world of Artificial Intelligence, gene-engineering, psychedelics, government-sponsored murder and brainwashing is frighteningly enough like our own. Constantly panning from a few individuals and their stories to the chatter of the media and sudden chunks of crucial text, Stand on Zanzibar was a ground-breaking novel in which Brunner broke wide open the stylistic and narrative conventions of SF, and set the agenda for the next decades. Packed with memorable characters--the computer Shalmaneser, the incestuous racist Clodard family, Presidents and newscasters--and sudden flashes of insight from rebel sociologist Chad Mulligan. "Rumour Believe all you hear. Your world may not be a better one than the one the blocks live in but it'll be a sight more vivid." Stand on Zanzibar is a masterpiece of speculative sociological SF, which some have described as a nightmare vision and others as a possible world better than what we are likely to get. --Roz Kaveney