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The Sheep Look Up

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,150 Ratings  ·  251 Reviews
An enduring classic, this book offers a dramatic and prophetic look at the potential consequences of the escalating destruction of Earth. In this nightmare society, air pollution is so bad that gas masks are commonplace. Infant mortality is up, and everyone seems to suffer from some form of ailment. The water is polluted, and only the poor drink from the tap. The governmen
Paperback, 388 pages
Published May 11th 2003 by BenBella Books (first published August 1st 1972)
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Ender's Game by Orson Scott CardDune by Frank Herbert1984 by George OrwellFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books
346th out of 5,499 books — 18,368 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Feb 25, 2015 Carol. rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who disbelieve the need for the EPA
I think I might DNF this one.

Honestly, I feel like I'm reading the newspaper and the Sierra Club's journal on a particularly bad day. Knowing that this was written forty years ago makes it even worse; you mean we knew these problems were coming and still didn't fix them? We start with gas masks in L.A. (hello, China),

pesticide resistant bugs eating modified crops (hello, Monsanto and Round-Up),

water unsafe for swimming or drinking (hello, red algae blooms and oil spills)

walled enclaves and arm
Feb 11, 2009 Adam rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Human beings alive in 2009. Every one of them.
Stop you’re killing me!
David ”The Postman” Brin says in the intro that John Brunner scared the crap out of people in the 60’s , well he scares the crap out of me today. The label “Science Fiction” could be safely removed from this book as it is sadly becoming a realistic portrait of our very own moment in history. A primal scream treatment for anyone who survived the dread and anxiety of the Bush years (written 30 years before it occurred) and a dreadful prophecy of the environmental grave we
Oct 25, 2007 Robert rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anybody
The Sheep Look Up is a prime example of Science Fiction at its scariestly prescient (like that word, "scariestly"?:-). John Brunner portrays a world where the United States is run by a president who is eerily reminscent of George W. Bush -- a complete idiot, a figurehead run by his cabinet and given to fighting many small wars. The world is in the middle of an ecodisaster brought about by inexorable population pressure and the systematic abuse of chemicals. Antibiotic resistant diseases are in f ...more
I can't say I enjoyed the majority of this book. The style is very broken, telling many stories at once with very little indication of how they're related.

It's a bleak world where the climate is broken and polluted, the government is controlling and full of platitudes and outright lies, food and water is scarce, you need filtered masks to breath outside in the cities, and poverty is rampant. The story follows the lives of a number of people and how they survive in the world as it now stands.

4.5 stars. A brilliant novel. Not as good as Stands on Zanzibar, but that is not much of a criticism given that Zanzibar is one of the best novels ever written IMHO. This is a novel that explores the effect of unchecked out of control pollution and environmental collapse. Recommended.

Nominee: Nebula Award Best Novel
Nominee:(6th place) Locus Award Best Science Fiction Novel
Dave Lefevre
Jan 11, 2012 Dave Lefevre rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-sf
This has to be one of the most frightening books I have ever read. My favorite science fiction author is Phillip K. Dick, whose sense of extrapolation was amazing. However the extrapolations that Brunner has made in this book leaves most PKD novels in the dust, and that's one of the reasons this books is so unsettling.

While I was reading I couldn't resist to urge to write down some of the speculations that Brunner made in this novel that are uncomfortably like the world we see right now. Here is
Dec 10, 2007 Amber rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Yes
This novel is scary.
Rarely has a novel actually made me concerned about what is happening in our society.

In the book, the world is basically going to shit, people cannot breathe the air, basic infections are rampant, old pollutions are killing people but the government/corporations are covering it up. The only people who can live healthily are the rich.

The story has is ominously correct on topics such as organic farmer, vegetables making individuals sick, corporations profiting from healthy alt
May 23, 2016 YouKneeK rated it liked it
This book may be the bleakest, darkest, and most depressing dystopian novel I’ve ever read. It’s the kind of book that motivated me to read out on my deck whenever I could, so I could be surrounded with fresh air, sunshine, singing birds, and healthy, green, growing things. The book seemed twice as bleak whenever I read it at night before going to sleep. It held my interest and I was never tempted to give up on it, but I’m really glad to be done with it.

The book was written in 1972 and it seeme
Jan 20, 2016 Phrynne rated it did not like it
A very rare thing for me - a DNF . I made it half way and decided I was wasting a part of my life. Maybe when it was written this was a foreseeable future and I could have continued reading if that was the only issue. But it just kept on and on. I kept saying okay you made your point, move on. But it didn't. I have read that it does improve towards the end of the book. I just couldn't wait that long. Never mind. I know a lot of people did enjoy this book and I am glad. It just wasn't for me:(
Aug 06, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing
The title of the novel is a quotation from the poem Lycidas by Paradise Lost author John Milton:

The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed,
But swollen with wind and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread ...

This is an important book, with a capital “I”. It is a shame everyone doesn’t read it, and even more of a shame that many who would read it would dismiss it as silly liberal propaganda as they have dismissed all discussions on climate change. Because it was written in
Natasha Hurley-Walker
Mar 08, 2012 Natasha Hurley-Walker rated it really liked it
By turns insightful and terrifying, this book was impossible to put down. Every time I (quite literally) came up for air, I looked at the world around me and thought, "At least it's not that bad here... yet." Combining real and fictional newspaper articles, ancient hymns and poems, and a series of interlocking character narratives not unlike Infinite Jest (minus the hyperbolic prose and enjoyable tangents), 'Sheep' mourns the the selfishness of mankind and the insufferable greed that drives us, ...more
This is an excellent read, but very tough to work through. John Brunner has written a masterpiece and it looks at what could have happened if the world did not turn back in the late 1960's and start to take care of the environment. Everything is poisoned, everyone is sick, and everything is broken.

Written in a disjointed style, The Sheep Look Up is a series of vignettes of a world in decline and no idea what to do about fixing itself. This book will leave you depressed and forlorn. It is a caut
Aug 11, 2014 Cassienerdgirl rated it it was amazing
It took me a long time to get through this book. I had to put it down to read other, lighter books along the way. Because this book is depressing, far too close to the truth.

The Sheep Look Up was published as sci-fi in 1972, and it essentially forecasts the environmental downfall of the world, specifically the US. Everyone is sick. Everything is poisoned. You can't swim anywhere, see blue skies or breath without filter-masks in cities. Children are deformed or developmentally disabled. Corporati
aPriL does feral sometimes
Remarkable times call for remarkable action. America responds with it’s usual can-do character!

The air is no longer quite breathable. The water is poisoned with chemicals from farming, food product additives, pharmaceuticals, plastics, sewage and defoliants. The oceans are dead. No one can remember when they last saw a bird. Even flies are rare. When sunlight breaks through the dust-laden air, it is announced on the television by an affable announcer. Food yields are dropping despite everything
Feb 25, 2009 Gil rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Brunner's bleak look at a future that never happened is a curio. Set in America but obviously written by a Brit, its quaint attempts at tough American talk are completely undercut by the writer's native tongue. So many things are wrong with this book, so much is dated (and was the day it was published in 1972) that sometimes it's hard to see what's right about it. The results of indifferent pollution are well done, but basically this is just a setup for his lectures on what we've done to the pla ...more
Mar 28, 2015 Gav451 rated it really liked it

The cut up technique with multiple views and perspectives made this a tough read to begin with. I was a good 20% in before it clicked and I properly began to enjoy reading this book but I was glad I persevered.

This is a dark 'what could be' type of tale with a world gone wrong because of unfettered pollution and over use of natural resources. You are looking at the world through a number of eyes and from all of them things are not good.

This is no heart-warming tale. This is a tale where
Aug 13, 2014 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I know I've read this before, but didn't remember a thing. It's a little slow to begin, it jumps about confusingly, and it definitely seems a little dated (not as much as you might think for a book published in 1972, though). I could live without the lectures on the dangers of specific toxins like lead and PCBs. I'm pretty sure I knew all that stuff when I would have first read it.

I think this is supposed to be set in the 1980s - though I can't find why I thought that - which is about the
Kate Sherrod
Jan 13, 2013 Kate Sherrod rated it it was amazing
What a weird combination of eerie prescience and slapstick satire this is, for all that I'm pretty sure it was just supposed to be the latter.

The Sheep Look Up is very much a product of its time, when the Vietnam War was still raging and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was still relatively new and shocking. As such, its view of the rest of the twentieth century -- the author's imagined future, our immediate past -- should come across as dated. There are no cell phones, no internet; computers are s
Jan 04, 2008 Eric rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Eric by: The Bearded Triffid
Thus far, a brilliant, harrowing read. Brunner's 1972 novel portrays a dystopia in which pollution is almost certainly pitching an oblivious humanity towards extinction. Filter masks are ubiquitous for those who brave the outdoors. "Do Not Drink Days" discourage the use of tapwater. Crop shortages caused by pesticide-immune pests threaten global famine. Superbugs tear through the population, resistant to every antibiotic thrown at them.

For every single "prediction" Brunner gets wrong, there's so
This book was very hard to get in to at first. It's written in a very disjointed style that takes some working to get through. But it is worth it. The things in this book never occurred but the scary thing is it can still happen. All the chemicals in this book are real. Their effects on humans are real. They way that governments and corporations look after their own to the expense of others is real. Hopefully this world doesn't go the same way but it's up to us to make sure it doesn't.
Mar 05, 2009 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction, 2007
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex Sarll
John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up was released in 1972, and is the story of a near-future humanity sleepwalking into ecological collapse. You can see where I'm going with this, can't you? And yet, if the only problem with his Stand on Zanzibar was that its dystopian vision of circa now was actually too optimistic*, then here he's a little too far the other way. Yes, we can all recognise this world:
"The government couldn't go on forever bailing out mismanaged giant corporations , even though it wa
Feb 27, 2010 Jerome rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: disaster junkies and the eco-conscious
Shelves: library
I always get a grim sort of joy out of reading apocalypse novels. //The Sheep Look Up// is neither of the Divine, zombie, or nasty-unwanted-thing-from-outer-space variety, but rather, an apocalypse brought about by humanity's inability to keep from "soiling his own nest." Although originally published in the early 70s, the novel feels eerily current. The novel takes place in the "near future" United States, where there is ever-increasing industrialization and consumption unchecked by environment ...more
Nancy Oakes
Apr 13, 2013 Nancy Oakes rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
"We're divorced from reality, in the same way as the Romans went on thinking of themselves as invulnerable and unchallengeable long after it ceased to be true. The most awful warnings are staring us in the face..." (207)

As usual, you can stick with the condensed version or click here for the longer one.

Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with a work of didactic fiction if it's done well and has other things going for it. In that sense, The Sheep Look Up is one of the best works o
Quite good, although I really wasn't feeling it for the first half of the book. It takes a very long time to find its plot, jumping around from thing to thing with no real focus for probably two thirds, until it homes in. Also incredibly 70's.
Richard Buro
FIrst the short version...

John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up is one of the more unique dystopian books I have had the honor and pleasure of reading. To say that it was an easy read is completely in error. It is hard reading, it is harder believing, and (yes) it is hardest knowing that we are possiby headed this way in the next half century or so. Here is what I mean.

Hard reading in the case of The Sheep Look Up occurs from the very first page. The style if driven by vignettes, news shorts, brief s
This book is a bit dated being written in the 70’s and in some parts it shows (racial language and computers come to mind first and foremost), but it has some good lessons as well. Thankfully this look into the future didn’t come to pass and society as a whole has learned a thing or two about the environment.
This book is a tough read. The rhythm and pace of the book is a bit herky-jerky with not only the story jumping from person to person but jumps within chapters as well. Also I felt as if the
Jul 21, 2014 Rose rated it liked it
The writing style was atrocious. I had a hard time getting into it.
The writing was dated. Police were referred to as pigs or the fuzz, individuals referred to as cats, etc.

That's all I have for bad points because the rest was pretty good. It's about pollution, corrupt industries, Government not doing what is best for the people, and the average person just trying to get through life. This story is categorized as science fiction, and it probably was when it was written, but it's closer to reality
Near future sci fi novel hits pretty close to real life. A portrait of extremes, the consequences of disregarding the environment and the industries that pollute, agricultural catastrophes associated with pesticides, issues associated with the disposal of toxic waste, diseases adapting to antibiotics and the consequences of inept government oversight. Brunner foresaw all of it. Only a couple of nonexistent technologies: tanks that shoot lasers to quell the crowd and a microwave oven that leaked ...more
Sep 14, 2015 Jess rated it it was amazing
(Review originally posted on my blog)

Are you willing to be led out of your comfort zone? If so, how far out?? A relevant question, I assure you, because John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up is a book that wrenches you so far out of that zone you won’t even remember what comfortable felt like. And then it beats you up. THE DESCENT INTO HELL, reads one of its chapter subtitles, but it may as well be the subtitle of the entire novel.

Reading Brunner’s book is like plunging oneself into a cesspool – a ce
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John Brunner was born in Preston Crowmarsh, near Wallingford in Oxfordshire, and went to school at St Andrew's Prep School, Pangbourne, then to Cheltenham College. He wrote his first novel, Galactic Storm, at 17, and published it under the pen-name Gill Hunt, but he did not start writing full-time until 1958. He served as an officer in the Royal Air Force from 1953 to 1955, and married Marjorie Ro ...more
More about John Brunner...

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“We are told that "the meek shall inherit the earth." It follows that the meek are chosen of God. I shall try to be meek, not because I want the earth - you can keep it, after the way you've fucked it around it's not worth having - but because I too should like to be chosen of God. QED.

Besides, I like animals better than you bastards.”
“She recalled him as a forceful and witty speaker with a ready repartee and a penetrating voice. He had once, for example, put down a spokesman for the pesticide industry with a remark that people still quoted at parties: "And I presume on the eighth day God called you and said, 'I changed my mind about insects!” 9 likes
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