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The Crucible of Time

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  773 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
There are some incredibly smart things Brunner does in this novel. The story is told from the perspective of a world of intelligent aliens as they reach out to discover the universe in which they live. They have to do that in ways that are very different from our own history in details (for example, they live under water where access to the night sky is limited, which puts ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 1st 1983 by Ballantine Books (NY) (first published 1983)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,665)
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Sep 16, 2010 Richard rated it really liked it
Recommended to Richard by: HardSF Group
Okay, I finally finished this — but, frankly, I'm not sure it was worth the time spent. Oh, don't get me wrong: this was interesting enough to warrant four stars. But in some way, it was still a chore to read.

The basic idea: Brunner created a completely alien world (humanity plays no role whatsoever in this story) and follows the development of their intelligent species beginning with the technologically primitive and ending with their escape to the stars as a space-faring civilization.

But he ha
Aug 22, 2010 David rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
For my personal taste in reading enjoyment, I might give it a bit more than 3 stars.

I'm torn. This is what they call an "ambitious novel". It portrays a non-human alien race as the only characters. Their planet is in a star system traveling thru the galaxy - causing them to experience passage thru dust clouds, radiation, meteors, etc. The book is a series of episodes in their civilization's history from something like the Bronze Age to the first space flight. It shows how superstition and myth t
Shira and Ari Evergreen
Jul 21, 2011 Shira and Ari Evergreen rated it really liked it
Recommended to Shira and Ari by: lea
This book is about a people on a planet - how their cultures and bodies evolve, how their ideas change, how they somehow move through time, averting disaster again and again. They're different from us, ingeniously so, but they're also very similar. So much so, that if kids read this in high school, it would probably be a good thing for the world. It may be a fictional story starring liquid-filled bug people, but there's more to it than that - it's very instructive to read and ponder it, and to t ...more
May 24, 2012 Raj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This is one heck of an ambitious book, charting the history of an entire planetary civilisation, from the discovery of metal-working up to their first spaceflight, and without a single Human in sight.

Each section of the book is a snapshot into the (never named) world of 'the folk', the first following the invention of the first telescope and the beginnings of astronomy, and then the discovery that their solar system is heading right into a crowded area of space, where collisions or disturbances
Erik Graff
Jan 04, 2011 Erik Graff rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Brunner fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
Brunner tends, in my experience, to be a realist in his science fiction. My favorite novels, Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up, are both social prognostications which, at the time of their composition, appeared quite relevant.

This, too, is a realist novel in the broader sense of maintaining the conventions of the prevailing scientific faith. As such, it is very much in the tradition of Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke. The presumption is that there is a single, common cosmos out there abou
Jun 18, 2012 Tom rated it really liked it
Wonderful sci-fi! Follows the entire development of a culture, religions, and science on an alien world as they evolve. Each chapter is a few thousand years after the previous, so it's not a character-based book. It's an idea book. Fun to read, which gets it three stars. It made me go out and look at the night sky differently. That got it four.
David Agranoff
This is an almost surreal bizarro science fiction novel. I read it many years ago, it is not for the casual Sci-fi readers. Written from the point of view of a Alien species that developed under the ocean of their planet. If you hate Sci-fi novel that have alien liefforms that are too much like humans this is a great one to read.
Michael Brady
Jul 02, 2012 Michael Brady rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
John Brunner creates a skillfully wrought, fully realized world, full of sentient creatures we resemble in all the important and embarrassing ways even though we look nothing alike. Well worth your time. Quite the prize find from the $1 rack at Half Price books.
Feb 05, 2013 Richard rated it really liked it
I read this quite a long time ago (when it was new, actually). I'll always remember it for the marvelously different alien culture. Opened my eyes in many ways.
Albin Louit
Jul 20, 2011 Albin Louit rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf
A very moving novel from Brunner who describes the fate of another specie, figthing against time for its survival
Sep 06, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing
A wonderful saga of a very alien world.
Althea Ann
Sep 25, 2013 Althea Ann rated it it was ok
An epic sci-fi novel about the progression of history and culture on
an alien planet peopled by an insect-like sentient race.
The 'novel' is really six separate stories, each dealing with a
momentous point in their history. It follows the race from a primitive
society to a spacefaring people who desperately need to escape from
the asteroid belt that threatens their planet. In each story, a
brilliant young person with groundbreaking ideas must fight to take a
cultural step forward.
Although the book's no
Stories with aliens always bear something artificial, as if the author really looked for a manner to tell something, whatever it is. In a way, we could say that all the authors choose a manner to tell anything - after all, since the collapse of neoclassicism, art unlinked itself from representation. There's no reason why it should go the same with litterature.

The Crucible of Time proposes a reflexion about long span, an idea coined by the French historian Fernand Braudel. That is, slow - and obv
Oct 27, 2013 Ardee rated it really liked it
Brunner extrapolates from current events in many of his books, and this one is especially topical. Discussing climate change in our world right now is fraught with established political stresses and not much is said that is outside the talking points. In this novel (published presciently in 1983, two decades before "An Inconvenient Truth") Brunner takes the reader through thousands of generations of an intelligent species at risk because of global changes. In this case, it's got to do with galax ...more
Nelson Minar
Feb 26, 2015 Nelson Minar rated it really liked it
Very compelling read. I like the basic theme of the inevitable march of scientific progress, the struggle of visionaries against circumstance and ignorant people. It's a good story, a race doomed to extinction by the bad luck of their planet being in the path of meteors. The repetition of events through different generations got a bit much, I think the book could have been 20% shorter without losing anything. But as a nice allegory to humans sticking their head in their sand about environmental ...more
May 03, 2012 Olivia rated it it was ok
Having some trouble getting into this book so far. It jumps right into the story without any setup so I'm trying to figure out the "rules" of this world and it's peoples. Having trouble visualizing the characters - they have mandibles, but reproduce by budding - so a cross between a tree and an insect? Hmm hopefully this will be cleared up.

Never really got a clear reading on what these aliens look like. The history of their peoples was slightly interesting. But as far the story goes it was hard
Jun 30, 2012 Sara rated it liked it
This book was very well executed -- the passage of intelligent life through the process of civilization; discoveries, inventions, the slow shift from superstition and magic to science and exploration. I did get bogged down for a while trying to visualize the main characters and the environments that they lived in. The novel jumps forward through the timeline similar to Asimov's Foundation stories, so although the characters change in each section, there remains some continuity. I'm not a huge fa ...more
Thomas Hayes
Jan 11, 2014 Thomas Hayes rated it really liked it
I loved this book. Yes, it is hard to read and the author never really describes the main species, "the folk", enough for you to easily associate with them. There are reviews that there are no emotional connections. I say this is a book that demands you focus, go back sometimes and read sections again, and allow yourself to step outside of your concepts of consciousness and technology. If you commit to it you will be rewarded with a rich, emotional story spanning many eras that explores the huma ...more
Sep 17, 2014 Dave rated it did not like it
Shelves: own
I had really high hopes for this book, but it fell way short. It was just boring to me. The book is about an alien race and it follows their evolution from a primitive culture to a spacefaring race. It is essentially a series of short stories, each from a different time period. I didn't feel like each story was advancing a single narrative throughout the book. It just felt like it was another story about this alien race. I didn't care about the characters and it was just a tough read.
Sep 28, 2015 Tanya rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tanya by: Lee
This story gets you thinking, about extraterrestrial life and evolution, and unlike any story I've read before, it covers a time span of many millions of years. I enjoyed it and would definitely read it again. For some reason, it got me thinking of the Riverworld series by PJF, so it was on to that next.
Jun 16, 2014 treva added it
Shelves: walk-away
Nope. How much do I care about the main characters? Exactly nope.

I usually give myself at least 50 pages or a quarter of the book to decide if I really want to bail. It was a struggle to push myself even that far here. I was willing to be dropped in media res with zero exposition, up until I realized I was totally unimpressed with the quality of the writing itself and completely indifferent to the characters and their situation.
Micah Waldstein
May 24, 2010 Micah Waldstein rated it really liked it
Pretty enjoyable - a really interesting look at the evolution of a non-human civilization. Ends up feeling a lot like the Foundation series in its episodic/multi generational examination of turning points. Initially, it feels forced particularly in giving the species a radically different biology, but by the time you're a quarter of the way in, it fades into the background.
Edwin Downward
May 05, 2013 Edwin Downward rated it really liked it
I found the opening section hard to read and came close to putting the book aside as unreadable, but noting this appears to be a kind of anthology of linked stories I gave it until section two to keep my attention. It delivered, and that kept me going through the ups and downs each subsequence section presented me with.
Nov 08, 2011 Max rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: SF fans who are tired of the same old "aliens"
Shelves: front
Most SF writers write about aliens as if in fact they were merely aliens from another country right here on earth. Not much originality, eh? Well here's the exception to that rule! This book presents what in my experience is the most original and well thought out portrayal of a truly alien intelligence.
Leland Gilsen
Jun 10, 2015 Leland Gilsen rated it really liked it
A rare novel that covers the evolution of a species living on a doomed world. Lots of changing characters during different periods of time. A study in the religion/science debate as a sub-theme. Would make a quality TV series.
Aug 28, 2012 Frank rated it it was amazing
I love this book. A fantastic story of a completely alien species struggles through ages. There is not a single human voice in this classic.
May 15, 2014 Patric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read a long time ago (30 years, I think), but I still remember scenes from it. I really liked it at the time.
Pablo Flores
Nov 19, 2015 Pablo Flores rated it really liked it
This was a fairly light, entertaining read. The book follows the history of an alien civilization from the time it begins to discover its place in the cosmos until their first attempts at space travel. The aliens are remarkably alien, yet relatable. (In TVTropes terms they fall squarely within the Starfish Alien type) Having read just a couple of Brunner's more mundane novels, this was rather a new thing for me. It reminded me a bit of Robert Forward's Dragon's Egg and of Hal Clement's Mission o ...more
Mar 03, 2012 John rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 31, 2015 Fabián rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Badly written, obvious metaphors, forgettable characters, linear story, nothing remains after reading.
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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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“You will die, and I, and all we can create—why not a city? But if there is one thing that deserves to be immortal, it is knowledge.” 2 likes
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