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The Sheep Look Up

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  2,457 ratings  ·  180 reviews
Food and crops, water and scarce resources—all are undergoing major stresses due to human incompetence and greed. In The Sheep Look Up, Brunner describes the lives of the people in the midst of ecological catastrophe and their attempts to come to terms with their environment.

This is the first limited edition of The Sheep Look Up ever published. This edition features an int
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Centipede Press (first published 1972)
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Feb 11, 2009 Adam rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime)
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 b
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
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 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
Nancy Oakes
"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
Jan 04, 2008 Eric rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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 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
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
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
Kate Sherrod
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
Feb 27, 2010 Jerome rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
The sheep look up is a prophetic environmental disaster novel based on the human compulsion to advance at all costs. Brunner’s vision is bleak, the water is undrinkable, the air is thick with harmful gasses, disease is rife and political tensions are high.

Written with a very individual style, the story is delivered through short, sharp, snippets from various viewpoints which are woven between other forms of media such as news reports, in a way in which deeply immerses the reader in his creation.
I was exceptionally pleased to have found a copy of this in trade paperback at one of the local used bookstores recently - I hadn't yet heard that it was back in print and thought I had found myself a rare book! I would be disappointed but for what a terrific read it is. I had a bit of difficulty at first in getting comfortable with the format, but settled in after 25 or so pages.

Brunner's conception of the future seems remarkably appropriate for the present time; while this book dates back to t
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gah, dystopian fiction is so depressing; yet when it's done well, it is such a good read. This is one such book. It came up on my Goodreads recommendations, and I'm surprised I hadn't encountered it before, since I've been reading a lot of science fiction & futuristic fiction in the past few years. I hadn't read or heard anything about the author before, which usually makes me a little wary. However, once I started this book, I didn't want to put it down.

In the novel, a company called Bamber

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
I've been on an apocalyptical sci-fi kick lately, and this ranks right up there alongside some of the better ones Ive read!

Brunner picks up at a time when the world is literally falling apart. People cannot walk outside without wearing a filtermask, windows in homes are locked up tight, water is undrinkable, everyday food has now become "gourmet", crops are failing, rain is dirty and people are dying from every contagious illness out there because the diseases are immune to our antibotics.

A worl
What a depressing book. Have you ever read a book where everyone's life is just so horrible that you hope everybody dies? This is one of those books.

That being said, the story starts getting better when people do start dying. There are a lot of characters because a lot of people need to die in a lot of ways.

But the book is important. Its predictions for the environment, the green movement, healthcare issues, and politics are eerily close to how things are going in the real world. If everything h
I couldn't recommend this book more highly. It took me a bit at first to be drawn in to the character's; there are a lot of them. But what first pulled me in was how prophetic this book is! Published in 1972!! Global climate change, finacial greed leads to meltdown, an ineffectual and corupt government, a media that is both apathetic, and subserviant. Don't want to give too much's a great read even if you're only looking for entertainment....the flow and pace of the story, the quick ed ...more
Marc Goldstein
Another dire warning from Brunner. Sheep is grimmer than Stand on Zanzibar. Set in a future much closer to our own time than the scenario painted in Stand on Zanzibar, the world described in Sheep is less fantastic and more familiar. The story is bitterly satirical, but the goal of the satire isn’t humor, it’s shock. Brunner’s portrait of a corrupt, polluted world on the verge of ecological implosion is startlingly plausible and terrifyingly recognizable. You can feel the walls closing in as you ...more
Trey Howard
A hauntingly prescient tale of environmental destruction in the US. John Brunner does a fantastic job at examining multiple aspects of a world in which the environment is so degraded that the seas are dead, and filter masks are a necessary part of life in California.

This book is very much a product of its time, with an emphasis on racial tensions, countercultural movements, the ghosts of war in Asia, and insurgencies throughout Latin America. Interestingly, through the character of Prexy, Brunne
These days i have not a been a terribly big reader of fiction (sci-fi or otherwise) I started this book as an experiment to see about getting back into that genre. Back in the early 2000's several environmental activist friends were pushing this book on to me and I never picked it up, but it crossed my path again and I decided to give it a go. I am glad I did. In a nutshell the book is extremely prescient and harbinger of things to come and that have already been happening, which is the scariest ...more
Pollution, resistant pests and diseases, over population, water use problems all tied up in a fast paced and easy to read tale
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Apocalypse Whenever: August 2014: The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner (SPOILERS) 118 127 Sep 03, 2014 02:48PM  
  • The Genocides
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  • The Guardener's Tale
  • The Death of Grass
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  • This Is the Way the World Ends
  • The Iron Dream
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  • The Inverted World
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The late John Brunner was perhaps as well known for much of his career in the US as in the UK. A leftwing activist, with particular connections to the peace movement, much of his best and most mature fiction is involved in a complex analysis of social trends and where they will take us--novels like Stand on Zanzibar which deals with overpopulation, among other things, and The Sheep Look Up, which ...more
More about John Brunner...
Stand on Zanzibar The Shockwave Rider The Crucible of Time The Jagged Orbit The Squares of the City

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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!” 8 likes
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