The Squares of the City (1965) by John Brunner

TheSquaresoftheCity1To borrow Robert Silverberg’s erroneous phrasing about James Tiptree’s gender, there is something “ineluctably” American about British author John Brunner’s style (or variety of styles, rather). Last week, I said as much about Charles Stross’s format when compared to his British author peers, but with Brunner, this isn’t about American formula, it’s about feel—a consciously American feel— which heightens his work, impressing itself into the pages with brash entitlement, bold statements, and clean prose. This consistency in feel is all the more striking considering the range of styles his novels explore.

It’s all the more noticeable in The Squares of the City, his 1965 Hugo-nominated novel about an Australian traffic planner commissioned by the city of Vados, capital city of the fictional South American nation of Aguazul, to do the near-impossible: make the perfect city of Vados more perfect by solving its minor traffic problems. But controversy surrounds the project when the traffic troubles take on a human aspect, and what at first appears to be an innocuous Latin American city transformed by wealth, reveals a more sinister agenda of politics and game-playing. Continue reading

The Whole Man (1964) by John Brunner

TheWholeManAnd then we have The Whole Man.

It’s not Stand on Zanzibar.

The End.


Whatinole do you want? A synopsis? Fine.

Gerald Howson is born into disadvantaged circumstances with a disadvantaged physique, while a vague world crisis occupies the background. The short-statured, slumped boy with developmental delays struggles through life, until one day, his latent telepathic skills activate. When a crime career doesn’t pan out, he joins a group of telepathists to guide the world and each other because, without proper guidance, telepathists can be the most dangerous threat to humanity.

It basically occurs in three acts, a la Karate Kid*: Continue reading

Stand on Zanzibar (1968) by John Brunner

standonzanzibar1It opens with a television advertisement. Stock cue SOUND. Stock cue VISUAL. Plug cue. Script cue. Best news program anywhere. Starring Mr. and Mrs. Everywhere. Lots of loudness. Lots of promises. Promises of things. Things we didn’t know we need.

…Excerpt interjection by Abbie Hoffman type. Rhythm and more loud. IMPORTANT THINGS TO SAY.

…Followed by fragmented introductions of cast. We don’t know anybody. Yet. Some adverts here and there.

…Problem in small African nation. (Did he say President Obama? Obami. Obami.) Shady things going on. Doesn’t look good.

…More TV. Editorial news. Slang and baby farming.

… Norman as he takes down a woman with liquid helium when she attempts to destroy the predictive AI computer Shalmaneser. Her limbs freeze off. Justice in the modern world reminds him of his grandfather’s slave days.


Then bits and bites of conversations. Snippets of inflammatory political digests. An incestuous brother and sister. Interracial roomie arrangement. Repeat cycle.

[It’s like when I go to Chili’s and the TVs are really loud and on different channels and I am mesmerized by the noisy, moving pictures and can’t even pay attention to the person I’m with.]

This is sensory overload. Polemics in the form of ADHD. Part oracle, part Anarchist Cookbook. A graduate of The Space Merchants Academy, hold the cheese. Continue reading