New Book of the Week: John Brunner’s STAND ON ZANZIBAR

The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that Stand on Zanzibar is currently doing a second consecutive stint as New Book of the Week – thus making it the more accurately nomenclatured, if less snappy, New Book of the Fortnight.

The explanation for this is two-fold:

1) It really is a mind-blowing novel.

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.

Employing a range of post-modern literary techniques, John Brunner has created a future world as real as this morning’s newspaper . . . moving, sensory, impressionistic, as jagged as the times it portrays, this book is a real mind stretcher – and yet beautifully orchestrated to give a vivid picture of the whole.

2) The eBook took an extraordinary amount of time and effort to get right and we wanted to give it every opportunity for some prominence. With a structure broadly divided into four separate narrative streams – ‘Continuity’, ‘Tracking with Close-ups’, ‘The Happening World’ and ‘Context’ – each of which appears separately in the Contents but in differing order in the main body of the book, it was clear that we would need to over-ride the way in which the epub’s Contents were generated just to begin with. Add to that the instances of typographical tricks, which can’t be replicated in a reflowable eBook, and the frequency of non-standard language and layout and what you get is an eBook that has been bounced back-and-forth between editorial department and conversion house so often, it’s got more frequent flyer miles than a Boeing jet.

But don’t just take our word for it (although we are incredibly trustworthy – honest!); The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction calls it John Brunner’s magnum opus and praises its ‘cumulative, sometimes overpowering effect’, while the SF community awarded it the 1969 Hugo and 1970 BSFA awards for best novel, and SFWA shortlisted it for the 1969 Nebula Award (alongside Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – another worthy winner that had to settle for nominee status).

Stand on Zanzibar is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and, of course, an SF Gateway eBook and is – for those of you who like to skip to the last line – highly recommended.