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The Jagged Orbit

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  628 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Matthew Flamen, the last of the networks' spoolpigeons, is desperate for a big story. He needs it to keep his audience and his job. And there is no shortage of possibilities: the Gottschalk cartel is fomenting trouble among the knees in order to sell their latest armaments to the blanks; which ties in nicely with the fact that something big is brewing with the X Patriots; ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published August 24th 2000 by Victor Gollancz (Orion Books) (first published February 1969)
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5.0 stars. Not quite as good as Brunner's "Stand on Zanzibar" which I think is one of the best SF novels of all time. This is still head and shoulders above most of the SF out there. A superb novel. Where Zanzibar dealt with overpopulation, this novel deals with the propblem of racial disunity and the fragmantation of individuals to such a degree that people become almost totally isolated from each other emotionally. Highly recommended.

Winner: Britsh Science Fiction Award for Best Novel (1971)
Simon Mcleish
Mar 19, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in October 1998.

Brunner's four most famous novels take an aspect of today's society and exaggerate it, to create dystopias which are compelling because of the way they relate to our fears for the future. Stand on Zanzibar, the best known, is about the population explosion; The Sheep Look Up environmental pollution; Shockwave Rider computers and privacy; and Jagged Orbit race relations. They all use a similar technique, with news items interrupting the narrati
A reasonably good near-future dystopia, where racial violence, stoked by unscrupulous weapons manufacturers, is gradually causing society to come apart at the seams. Some of the ideas are nice, but it is starting to feel rather dated, and the ending is an unsatisfying deus ex machina. If you want to read one of his books, I recommend Stand on Zanzibar, which is similar but better done.
Aug 13, 2007 Dan rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: die hard cyberpunk fans
This is a prototype cyberpunk science fiction novel set in a future where racial relations have totally descended into open warfare. Due to rampant paranoia advanced personal armament sales are the most lucrative business on the planet. In addition to racial relations, western religious traditions are breaking down and people are turning to idolatry. And there are drugs that can make some people psychic.

There was a plot, but it was hard to follow, and I have a hard time recalling it.

This book wa
May 02, 2017 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Progressives, anti-Trump gurus
Shelves: science-fiction
The Jagged Orbit is another in Brunner's series of novels about the dysfunction of contemporary Western societies and is as true today (if not more true) as when written. This novel is about race relations, alienation, gun control, computerization, AI, political mental health diagnoses...

Though there are many passages or chapters which evoke concerns about Trumpism and creeping fascism, the novel overall did not really work for me. This structure is confused/weird as if the author is playing wit
Jan 06, 2013 Andrija rated it really liked it
Set in 2014, The Jagged Orbit is a tale of our over-armed, over-medicated and Apartheid ridden future. As seen from 1968, Brunner sees America divided into "knee" and "kneeblank" enclaves. (The terms will be explained in the book, but you'll get it after a bit). Those who are not finding themselves committed to the Ginsburg psychiatric hospital for medical care designed to emotionally distance them from everything live in constant fear of riots and 'knee' enclave invasions. Their fears are stoke ...more
Feb 24, 2011 Simon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I took a long time coming to this book, after finishing the hugely disappointing Stand on Zanzibar, but I had promised myself to give the author another chance and this is another of his highly acclaimed novels. This time I wasn't nearly so patient.

I gave up about 40 pages in. Presented again with a fragmented narrative with frequent and annoying digressions and the whiff of the same smug humour and didacticism, I just didn't have the patience to persevere. It was just going to be too much like
Brunner dreamed up the most horrible things he could, and off course most of them came true. The race war in America didn’t quite play out like this, but with militarization of the police, psychiatric care by meds, edited news, snipers paralyzing cities, cities turned to war zones, over reliance on technology, private gun dealers engineering revolutions, are hardly the territory of science fiction, let alone fiction any longer. This book reads a little like the b-sides of Stand on Zanzibar, but ...more
Apr 01, 2014 tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
review of
John Brunner's The Jagged Orbit
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 31, 2014

[sidenote: the actual edition I read is Ace's paperback version also from 1969 & NOT the hardcover bookclub edition - nonetheless, the cover's almost identical & the publisher & date are the same so it's not worth the trouble to create a new edition here - the paperback page count is 397 (not including the ads in the back).]

ALSO, 'of course', my review is "5727 characters" too long so the full r
Israel Laureano
Jun 08, 2015 Israel Laureano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brillante, compleja, deslumbrante..., como todas las obras de Brunner, principalmente su llamada "trilogía del desastre" (Todos sobre Zanzíbar -Stand on Zanzibar-, Órbita Inestable -The Jagged Orbit- y El rebaño ciego -The Sheep Look Up-), resaltando desde un punto de vista sociológico y sicológico los defectos sociales que ya se destacaban desde finales de le década de 1960:
* Todos sobre Zanzíbar - sobrepoblación y extremismos políticos.
* Órbita inestable - racismo y segregación extrema, miedo
Jun 22, 2017 Alessio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
È incredibile come i temi avanzati e sui quali si speculano in questo romanzo siano di una attualità disarmante, nonostante l' anno di pubblicazione del romanzo originale (The Jagged Orbit) risulta essere il 1969. John Brunner mette in piedi un affresco distopico del nostro mondo ( in particolare l'anno in cui si svolgono i fatti è il 2014) crudele e sconcertante, caratterizzato da un vero e proprio stato di guerra civile razziale tra bianchi e neri ( confinati in riserve ) oggetto di speculazio ...more
Michael Battaglia
Feb 21, 2013 Michael Battaglia rated it it was amazing
If you've at all heard of John Brunner, it's probably by way of his masterpiece (and masterpiece of 1970s SF) "Stand on Zanzibar", which managed the neat trick of creating a book about overpopulation that actually felt clastrophobic while taking a cross-section of its overstuffed expanse and spraying it at the reader all at once. It remains an extraordinarily visceral experience and probably works better as a multi-faceted depiction of a broken world than its more famous cousin Harry Harrison's ...more
Chris Harris
Jun 03, 2017 Chris Harris rated it really liked it
Brunner on where he saw the US going with respect to racism. I won't spoil the etymology of "blanks" and "knees" that he uses to set people apart, but when it's revealed it perhaps shows how widely his vision departed from reality. But he's not *that* far off, though; his description of the US president is eerily prescient...
Giuseppe Aversano
Jun 24, 2017 Giuseppe Aversano rated it liked it
More like 3,5
Dans le cadre de la tétralogie noir, comme le disent les éditeurs, encore un roman d’un optimisme incroyable…

Dans une monde ou la guerre raciale est quasiment une réalité quotidienne, les trafiquants d’armes sont devenus les vrais seigneurs (saigneurs ?) de l’industrie. Grâce à une politique soigneusement menée, une famille règne sur la vente d’armes, et fait tout pour encourager la haine raciale au sein d’un nation américaine qui n’est plus que l’ombre d’elle-même. Dans cette amérique où posséd
Fantasy Literature
5 stars from Jesse, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE

The 1950s and 60s was a time in the US rife with social tension and conflict. With unpopular wars being fought on foreign soil, blood was also being shed on American streets as ethnic, gender, and counter-culture concerns often turned to violence. Partially a reaction to these social issues, the New Wave science fiction movement, spearheaded by such writers as Ursula Le Guin, Samuel Delany, Robert Silverberg, Barry Malzberg, Joanna Ru
Roddy Williams
While reading this, it struck me, since Brunner seems particularly Dick-influenced - how PKD's characters seem to be trapped in their roles. I suspect if you pick up any Dick novel at random you would find more than one character yearning to break away from a job, or a spouse or both and yet seems doomed to remain. PKD's characters, oddly much like Dick's are defined by their status and their place in society, and to a certain extent, so are Brunner's.
Brunner's work is more obviously satirical,
Alex Sarll
John Brunner's The Jagged Orbit is not on the same level as The Sheep Look Up, let alone his masterpiece Stand on Zanzibar, though it forms part of the same project: a prismatic view from c1970 of the dystopian near future ie now. But, though it's didactic in places, though the whole emphasis on race war and apartheid was mercifully mistaken, elsewhere it demonstrates the same prophetic gifts as those greater books. Here is "this incomprehensibly complex modern world where the forces of economic ...more
Aaron Humphrey
Apr 15, 2011 Aaron Humphrey rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I'd heard this book was part of a loose tetralogy (tetraptych? Or is that too pretentious?) with The Shockwave Rider, The Sheep Look Up, and Stand On Zanzibar. I'd read the other three some years ago, but it took me a little longer to find this one. And then longer still to get around to reading it.

I don't remember The Shockwave Rider as much, but I do remember the short-chapter, quick-flashing style of TSLU and SOZ, as well as the more or less downbeat viewpoint of the books, as they examine en
Jun 05, 2010 Brian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read the first couple of pages before you commit to this book.

That's all you need to tell you whether it'll work for you or not. If a 60's psychodelic style of prose combined with a bizarre state of affairs the characters think is perfectly normal sounds good to you, this book is right up your alley.

On the other hand if Perry Mason endings don't turn your crank, you'll feel let down by this one. It's no co-incidence the title is explained in the last two pages - most of the book operates that w
Jul 02, 2012 Ian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
You can't fault Brunner for his willingness to stretch sf's envelope. He may have written some right hackwork during the 1950s - though he often seemed to have a reason for doing so... In the introduction to Interstellar Empire, he writes that he wanted to write a plausible planets & swords tale. He failed, and the stories in the collection are pretty bad... but at least he tried. The same could be said of The Jagged Orbit. It won the BSFA Award and was nominated for the Nebula, and it would ...more
Glen Engel-Cox
I cannot recall what I was reading at the time, but the gist of it was that John Brunner wrote four challenging and experimental novels in the late 60s/early 70s. Of those four, I had read three and considered two of them to be among my top 20 of all time (Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up; the other that I had read was The Shockwave Rider, which I like and which should be mandatory reading for cybergeeks, but I don't think if has the same impact of the other two). The fourth was this nove ...more
The Man In The Hat
Very much a novel of peaks and troughs; great moments and bad moments scattered liberally throughout, sometimes a chore to read and sometimes an absolute delight to read.

What appears to be an examination of a huge social issue changes throughout the course of the book into a codemnation of the lust for profit above all other factors (and I do mean ALL other factors), as such it becomes a timely read given the current climate.
This is not to say that the book shufts it's focus, it doesn't. Instea
Nicholas Whyte
Aug 24, 2012 Nicholas Whyte rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, winner, xk, 2013, b12, bsfa, 1307[return][return]It is set in 2014, mainly in and around New York, with a background of racial conflict, proliferation of privately owned weapons, and mass media which presents news as entertainment; there is a particularly good paragraph predicting spam. The story also involves a young woman who has visions of the future when in a drug-induced trance, which is less noticeably a feature of today's society. As with Brunner's other books, it is interspersed ...more
Nov 20, 2008 Aik rated it it was ok
Shelves: dystopia
I like John Brunner, but he really does harp on about the same damn thing and takes much too long to get to the point. This was definately one of his weaker books in this vein - a lot of it could have been cut out and it would have been better for it.

Also, I'm very tired of his preachy character - in this book it was Xavier Conroy, but he has the same style of character in his other dystopias as well. The wise guy driven into obscurity because society doesn't understand his brilliant ideas on so
Nov 30, 2010 Lee rated it really liked it
Spool-pigeon (investigative television reporter) Matthew Flamen is looking at two potential exposés. One involves the huge Gottschalk arms cartel, a Mafia-run company that seems to control the entire U.S. arms industry. The other concerns the Ginsberg State Hospital for the Mentally Maladjusted in New York, a vast institution overseen by psychiatrist Elias Mogshack.

Brunner cuts to the heart of society, with a style all of his own. I love Brunner, and would recommend him to anyone who can read. S
Oct 31, 2012 Jeff rated it it was ok
Thud. Disappointed - this was a Goodreads recommendation, and the summaries and dust jacket copy sound great, but... thud.

Very clunky future world. You know, in some futuristic novels you just slide right into the setting, like you've already read five novels set there. Not here. Just didn't work, the characters were not compelling, really became somewhat of a chore to read. There's a flash here and there of Brunner's talent, I can see the talent, this did just not work.

I'm always a bit disappoi
Aug 25, 2009 Dr. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Read the Sheep Look Up by John Brunner and be thankful. Get the tattoo. If you don't know what I mean don't worry about it. If you love the shit out of it be very careful which of his books you try to read next. a lot of his novels tend to be very difficult to become familiar with. The Jagged orbit though is a great place to go afterward. It has the same dark feeling as the sheep look it up. The setting is dreary and apacolyptic and not to mention bad ass. Im not done yet so who knows where it w ...more
Jun 03, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it
Haven't enjoyed a sci-fi novel so much since Fahrenheit 451. Large cast of characters means it takes a bit to get a handle on the story, but a very intriguing and fast-paced plotline toward the end. Interesting depiction of an apartheid-dystopia.
Apr 21, 2014 Catnip rated it liked it
I was briefly disconcerted when I came across a glossy full-paged ad for cigarettes in the middle of the book. At first I thought this was a commentary by Brunner about corporate power in his dystopian vision of 2014. Then I realised that it was just normal for the early 1970s (when my edition was printed)
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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
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“What people want, mainly, is to be told by some plausible authority that what they are already doing is right. I don't know know of a quicker way to become unpopular than to disagree.” 17 likes
“It's common platitude that knowledge is neutral but every now and then it would be useful if it was on your side and not theirs.” 6 likes
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