Brunner, John. Stand on Zanzibar. New York, Orb Books, [1968] 2011. ISBN 978-0-7653-2678-2.
In 1968, veteran British science fiction writer John Brunner (his first novel was published in 1951) decided to show those upstart “New Wave” authors how it's done. The result, Stand on Zanzibar, won the Hugo award for best novel in 1969 and became the quintessential 1960s science fiction novel. Set in 2010, it explores The Happening World through parallel interwoven plots and a huge cast of characters, using a chaotic narrative with sections titled “Context”, “Continuity”, “Tracking with Closeups”, and, of course, “The Happening World”.

How does it hold up more than half a century later, with 2010 already receding in the rear view mirror? Astonishingly well: the novel is not at all dated and in many ways prophetic. Brunner foresaw the ability of giant technology companies to manipulate public opinion and make government increasingly irrelevant; the mainstreaming of homosexuality and recreational drugs; the influence of pop philosophers on culture; the hook-up culture; chaos in Africa; the authoritarian governance model in Asia; the collapse of printed newspapers and all media moving down-market; stagnation in technological innovation compared to the first half of the 20th century; the end of the Cold War and its replacement by economic competition; the risk of a genetically-engineered plague originating in China, which remains nominally communist but is becoming a powerhouse that rivals the West. A prominent political figure on the world stage is a West African named Obomi.

Stand on Zanzibar forever changed my own writing style and influenced the way I look at the future and this increasingly crazy world we inhabit. It is a landmark of science fiction and a masterpiece worth revisiting today.

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