Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Sheep Look Up” as Want to Read:
The Sheep Look Up
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Sheep Look Up

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  3,358 Ratings  ·  274 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 August 1st 1972)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Sheep Look Up, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Sheep Look Up

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Dec 23, 2014 Carol. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 28, 2009 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  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
If you visit American city,
You will find it very pretty.
Just two things of which you must beware:
Don't drink the water and don't breathe the air!

"How often do I have to tell you? You never go outside without your mask!"

Brunner's book, published in the early seventies, has to be one of the earlier ecopocalypse novels. His descriptions are stunningly prescient. Take a look at his portrait of the Pacific Ocean:

The water looked more like oil. It was dark gray and barely moved to the breeze. Along t
Oct 25, 2007 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Dave Lefevre
Jan 07, 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
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
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
Jul 01, 2007 Amber rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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
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
Feb 01, 2015 Phrynne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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:(
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
May 18, 2011 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
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
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.
Kate Sherrod
May 28, 2012 Kate Sherrod rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 03, 2008 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Nancy Oakes
Apr 13, 2013 Nancy Oakes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Aug 01, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 23, 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
Aug 08, 2013 Rose rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 05, 2009 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction, 2007
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 30, 2015 Gav451 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Kilian Metcalf
Oct 27, 2016 Kilian Metcalf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2016
This is a 40-year-old book that could have been written today. Climate change, breakdowns of the infrastructure, natural disasters that could have been prevented, and the voice of a prophet calling in the wilderness and being totally ignored. Brunner was prescient, and at times it seems he had a copy of today's newspapers being delivered to him in 1972.

There are times when he goes into long speeches that seem unlikely to be delivered in the context of the book, but it is fascinating to read him
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.
Mar 14, 2012 Jess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(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
Feb 13, 2017 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, loved this book! Don't know why I have never heard of it before. It is a bit of a tough read - I don't really like the style. Don't give up - it's hard to get in to, but give it a chance.

It's told in glimpses, with no introduction to this world or who these people are. But the good old USA is a MESS - we have managed to spoil the air, the water, the soil...Meanwhile, around the world the same thing is happening, and the dessert in the Middle East is growing. This causes starvation in Afric
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The Genocides
  • Drowning Towers
  • The World Inside
  • The Wild Shore (Three Californias Triptych, #1)
  • Greybeard
  • The Iron Dream
  • Level 7
  • The Death of Grass
  • A Gift Upon the Shore
  • Some Will Not Die
  • Mockingbird
  • Juniper Time
  • Emergence
  • And Chaos Died
  • Norstrilia
  • This Is the Way the World Ends
  • Past Master
  • Beyond Armageddon
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...

Share This Book

“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
More quotes…