Sunday, 7 February 2010

28 - Stand on Zanzibar

Two months and 650 pages after I started reading it, I finally finished John Brunner's remarkable Stand on Zanzibar.

The novel is set in 2010 where crippling overcrowding has lead to widespread eugenic legislation as well as frequent instances in which people simply go mad and run amok in public, killing dozens. Written in 1968, many parts of the novel are eerily prescient.

But the most fascinating facet of Stand on Zanzibar, in my opinion, is its narrative style. There are four types of chapters. While 'Continuity' chapters follow the main plot, 'The Happening World' chapters do no more than provide snippets of conversations and information that give us the wider view of the world. 'Context' chapters provide just that, often via excerpts from newspapers and
'Tracking With Close-Ups' chapters generally focus on minor characters.

Though the plot therefore progresses fairly slowly, the pace is pretty consistent throughout and the world Brunner has constructed is beautifully rich. This isn't just down to length. I've read novels twice the length that still don't come close to Stand on Zanzibar's depth. It's possibly one of the most deeply constructed novels I've read.

The narrative style, John Brunner's prescience and the dark and philosophical plot are all equally strong reasons for reading it.
It truly is remarkable and I strongly suggest giving it a read.

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