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 Rosamond Sauer on 12 July 1958
At the beginning of his writing career Brunner wrote conventional space opera pulp science fiction. Brunner later began to experiment with the novel form. His 1968 novel "Stand on Zanzibar" exploits the fragmented organizational style John Dos Passos invented for his USA trilogy, but updates it in terms of the theory of media popularised by Marshall McLuhan.
"The Jagged Orbit" (1969) is set in a United States dominated by weapons proliferation and interracial violence, and has 100 numbered chapters varying in length from a single syllable to several pages in length. "The Sheep Look Up" (1972) depicts ecological catastrophe in America. Brunner is credited with coining the term "worm" and predicting the emergence of computer viruses in his 1975 novel "The Shockwave Rider", in which he used the term to describe software which reproduces itself across a computer network. Together with "Stand on Zanzibar", these novels have been called the "Club of Rome Quartet", named after the Club of Rome whose 1972 report The Limits to Growth warned of the dire effects of overpopulation.
Brunner's pen names include K. H. Brunner, Gill Hunt, John Loxmith, Trevor Staines, Ellis Quick, Henry Crosstrees Jr., and Keith Woodcott. In addition to his fiction, Brunner wrote poetry and many unpaid articles in a variety of publications, particularly fanzines, but also 13 letters to the New Scientist and an article about the educational relevance of science fiction in Physics Education. Brunner was an active member of the organisation Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and wrote the words to "The H-Bomb's Thunder", which was sung on the Aldermaston Marches.
Brunner had an uneasy relationship with British new wave writers, who often considered him too American in his settings and themes. He attempted to shift to a more mainstream readership in the early 1980s, without success. Before his death, most of his books had fallen out of print. Brunner accused publishers of a conspiracy against him, although he was difficult to deal with (his wife had handled his publishing relations before she died).
Brunner's health began to decline in the 1980s and worsened with the death of his wife in 1986. He remarried, to Li Yi Tan, on 27 September 1991. He died of a heart attack in Glasgow on 25 August 1995, while attending the World Science Fiction Convention there
aka K H Brunner, Henry Crosstrees Jr, Gill Hunt (with Dennis Hughes and E C Tubb), John Loxmith, Trevor Staines, Keith Woodcott
Winner of the ESFS Awards in 1980 as "Best Author" and 1n 1984 as "Novelist"..
review of John Brunner's Age of Miracles by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 23, 2014
I didn't start reading anything by Brunner until February of 2013. The 1st bk of his I read being The World Swappers (my review's here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23... ). In the summer of the same yr I went to Frederick, MD, to go to Wonder Books. I went prepared with a list of the 9 Brunner bks I had (all of wch I'd read by then) so that I cd get every Brunner bk that they had that I didn't already have.
The result was that I got 37 more Brunner bks (counting Ace doubles as 2 bks). Unfortunately, some of these were basically the same bk with slight differences & under different titles. It was tempting to give away the duplicates or to at least not read them but my obsessive completeness led to my reading & reviewing them after all. Of these, Polymath was probably the most irritating (my review's here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5... ). Polymath (1974) was just a slight rewrite of Castaways World (1963) wch was part of an Ace Double. Ace claimed that: "A shorter and substantially different version of this novel appeared in 1963" (p 4) but I go on to refute the "substantially different" part of that claim.
Of the 37 Brunner bks I saved Age of Miracles to be the 2nd-to-last one to be read b/c it's a rewrite of The Day of the Star Cities ( my review's here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7... ). This rewrite made a slightly better attempt to appear to be "substantially different" than Polymath did in relation to its predecessor but that's not saying much.
EG: Age of Miracles begins:
"Like needles thrust into a wax doll, images stabbed him.
"During the summer, there was plenty to eat. The fox avoided the place where his world was being invaded: the clanking mysteries, the smoky smells, the bellowing bipeds. Summer ended. For a while there was mud. Rain soaked his coat and sharpened the edge of the wind. By frost there was a hard place and a succession of stinking roars and flashes. The fox turned aside, slinking back into the long grass and the bushes. The grass became dry and yellow, the bushes stood out bare as an engraving against the sky." - p 7
while The Day of the Star Cities begins:
"When the figure came into the restaurant, everything stopped. Only for one moment was a man's high-pitched voice raised into the appalling silence, closing a bargain with a woman for the night. And then nothing. The remembered sound of chattering and music hung in the air like dust." - p 5
But don't be deceived, that original beginning is just postponed until p 10 in Age of Miracles. A more significant difference (that's ultimately somewhat irrelevant) is that the main policeman character is also a musician:
"Is that symptomatic? So many of us now seem to need to do small things perfectly, as though we're resigned to giving up big things . . . for good and all.
"He hoped not. He thought of his own laborious attempts to perfect Beethoven's Opus III, first without a wrong note or shaky time-value, then without a flaw of expression. He didn't want to write that off as mere compulsiveness." - p 18
Chapter IX of Age of Miracles begins:
"It was abominably hot tonight. Restless, Waldron paced his apartment. For a while he tried to settle to his piano, but he felt oppressed and could not concentrate; all the channels on the TV were spewing forth infantile rubbish, repeats and old movies from the days before the aliens, and when he tumbed through is records not one item tempted him to set it on the player." - p 91
& chapter IX of The Day of the Star Cities begins:
"Tonight it was unpleasantly hot. Restless, Waldron paced his apartment." - p 46
The reader might be misled to think that this chapter's beginning 45 pp later in Age of Miracles than it does in The Day of the Star Cities might signify a greater difference than it really does. I'll get to that later.
Age of Miracles: "He hesitated, uncharacteristically, as though the awe-inspiring vision before them had sobered him. "I keep a bit which killed a kid," he concluded. "Came slamming in through the window of his room. Cracked his skull."
""You—uh—you keep a watch on the place?" Waldron hazarded. "try and spot stuff as it comes out?"
""Oh. sure. we tried that. Or rather Grady did. Can't be done. You can't see it being tossed out, you can't photograph it, you can't pick it up on radar. . . . I guess it kind of skips the first bit of its trip."" - pp 130-131
The Day of the Star Cities: ""It's found all over the country for about fifty miles in any direction," Radcliffe grunted. "As though they throw it away at random when they have no further use for it."" - p 67
Chapter XIV of Age of Miracles:
"A Saturnine man named Clarkson, one of the Canadian observers, glanced up in faint surprise. "Haven't you heard? His plane was overdue at Calgary. They've mounted a search for it."
""What? What took him to Calgary?"
""He heard a rumor about a live artifact being offered for sale there and flew down to check on it. But he never arrived."" - p 145
& the same section in The Day of the Star Cities:
"A Saturnine man named Clarkson, next to the professor's vacant chair, raised his hand. "He asked me to sit in for him. He heard some rumor about a live relic turning up for sale in Calgary, and he's flying down there to check on the story."" - p 74
There are even some mistakes in Age of Miracles that aren't in The Day of the Star Cities: Chapter XVI:
"Hearing the paradoxical reality of the situation summed up so bluntly made the blood rush and thunder in Waldron's ears. It almost drowned out the rest of Greta's argument.
""No, but the free traders are never short of it. Grady Bennett gets—gets displaced." - p 167
Chapter XVI of The Day of the Star Cities:
"It came home with shocking violence to Waldron how paradoxical the situation really was. He scarcely heard the rest of Greta's argument for the thundering of his own blood in his ears.
""On the other hand, we don't know from what moment in future time Bennett gets—gets displaced.["]" - p 86
"Grady Bennett" shd be "Corey Bennett". Age of Miracles, p 272: "staying too log": that typo's not on the equivalent p, 143, of The Day of the Star Cities. But, then, the newer version not only changes the beginning, it changes the end (somewhat). This was just about the only truly significant difference. The language becomes more detailed & more appropriately experimental:
"Division: here, the see-through breeze; there: the be-through frieze." - p 272
"I ought to be wearing coordinates. What goes well with red?
"Mike's answer was prompt and coarse-textured. He had sneezed about it for a while and decided on a very mild electric shock, the kind you get when you touch your tongue to the terminals of a dry cell. They fitted excellently except that it wasn't completely square, and he wriggled around until he had altered the perspective he was viewing it from. Were the hundred paces up, or had they turned minus? Counting backward, he got down to about twenty-nine or possibly fifty-five, and hesitated. The brilliance was somewhat dazzling and the style of his friend was inadequate, lacking the middle rung." - p 276
That last section alone probably justifies reading Age of Miracles instead of The Day of the Star Cities. But don't be fooled, there's alotof filler here. The original has a smaller font. More importantly, the original has each chapter go right into the next w/ no new page beginning. Age of Miracles, on the other hand, has blank pp between every chapter & they add up to an additional 60pp!!
Humans of a post-apocalyptic Earth try to understand alien structures
Aliens show up on Earth, not to invade or make first contact. They just plop down some huge glowing structures here and there. They're so advanced, they don't even seem to recognize that humans are intelligent life forms. Unfortunately, their arrival also causes all fissionable material over a certain size to explode. Because we've been busy making lots of nukes, this has the side effect of turning Earth into an instant post-apocalyptic wasteland. The usual consequences follow - local warlords control territory like petty dictators.
A small group of remaining scientists try to understand the glowing structures the aliens left behind - are they cities? the first stage of colonization? something else? They come up with a daring plan to infiltrate the territory of a North American warlord that surrounds one of the structures so they can get close enough to study it.
I found the book had a lot of similarities to some of Clifford Simak's novels that deal with incomprehensible aliens. And Brunner seems to use a similar story structure as well with a somewhat open ended ending. But if you like Simak, I bet you'll enjoy this book too. This first chapter is a bit off-putting and doesn't make a lot of sense. But by the time you're halfway through the book, go back and read it again and it will make perfect sense. Overall an enjoyable read. Recommended.
Aliens have invaded Earth and destroyed all matter capable of nuclear fission. Humanity is living as a shadow of itself, with a reduced population and infrastructure and the outlook of now being the inferior species on their own planet.
It's an interesting book but quite short and simplistic. It has most of the staple from Brunner (and PKD), some good, some very bad: all women are prostitute (apart from a few smart ones, the exceptions), various extrasensorial and LSD-like experiences, some weird stuff that never gets explained, lots of existential dread, in summary: the usual.
But it also has some interesting (albeit basic) reflection around the perception of others, survival vs fitting in vs making a difference and even a few nice twists ((view spoiler)).
Putting this as a 3, but probably should be a 2 because of all the misogyny (look, even being released in the late 60s doesn't excuse everything).
Always a pleasure to read a story from Brunner, one of my personal favorites of the sci-fi genre. This one revolves around a group of scientists trying to unlock the secrets to these alien cities that have come to Earth and left it in ruin by detonating all fissionable material. There are now small villages scattered around the world, some nearby these alien cities. They need to figure out the secret of the alien artifacts and get into these alien cities before the advancing Russian militia takes over the US. Like most of his books, this is quite enjoyable throughout and ends in a way you don't really suspect.
A scientific thriller set against the background of a world in political crisis, with several factions competing for control of the highly dangerous area around a supposed alien base, this story focuses on an attempt by a Russian and American team to safely enter the "star city" and learn its secrets. Lots of action to hold the reader's attention, and the book delivers a hopeful "sense of wonder" conclusion. Yep, we get to meet an alien - run like hell!
(This novel is the full-length version of "The Day of the Star Cities", published in 1965.)
As the second John Brunner book I've read, I think Age of Miracles has made me realise that I like what he writes about far more than the way he writes. Although the way people talk and their attitudes rather badly dates this story, the sense of the aliens power and strangeness still comes across very well, as does the sense that they pay about as much attention to us as we do to insects.
As in the other Brunner book I've read (The Sheep Look Up), I've found myself utterly unable to remember who the hell anybody was, beyond the odd stand out character. Whether this is because they are dull characters or if they are introduced badly, I really can't say.
I'd rate this as more of an interesting idea rather than a book I really enjoyed. As I'm feeling a bit burned out on Brunner, I think I'm going to hold off on reading his most famous and highly rated book (Stand on Zanzibar) until I can give it the attention it probably deserves.
Brunner hat eine Menge billige SF geschrieben, bevor er als sozialkritischer, anspruchsvoller Autor zum Kritikerliebling wurde.
Eine Alieninvasion, geheimnisvolle Städte aus Energie, Artifakte der weit überlegenen Technologie. Klingt eigentlich ziemlich gut. Leider war das Lesen von Anfang an harte Arbeit. Auf den ersten paar Seiten wollte Brunner offenbar zeigen, wie anspruchsvoll er schreiben kann, was sehr mühsam zu lesen ist. Dann normalisiert sich der Stil, Lesevergnügen stellt sich aber nicht ein. Es hat eine Menge Personen, aber sie sind nicht prägnant, alle erscheinen irgendwie unmotiviert und schlecht gelaunt. Sie sind dem Leser egal. Das Buch erinnert vom Thema her ein bisschen an Strugazkis Picknick am Wegesrand, aber auch eine Prise Philip K Dick ist dabei. Die schlechte goodreads-Wertung ist leider nicht unberechtigt. Ich habe abgebrochen auf S. 66.
This seems like something of a step backward from literature to pulp coming in the wake of Zanzibar and Sheep, though he makes up for the arguable misstep with Shockwave a couple years later. Still, it's amusing enough, with a bit of mystery at play, and even some police procedural elements, with a dash of international intrigue, and hits again on some of his then-current themes, including the perennial nuclear threat. Not formula by any stretch, but not brilliant either.
I find Brunner novels to be a bit more optimistic about the future than some other novels of the same period. This one though has a somewhat more dreary tone than his other novels. Mysterious alien 'cities' appear in five locations throughout the world, causing havoc and the usual xenophobia. Should man respond with violence or peace? He ties up the story in an interesting way, with a little more action than usual, but the overall tone is pessimistic. He does include his usual emphasis on themes of morality, environmentalism, and justice, just with less hope than usual.
Reminded me of The Chronoliths,but was even more underwhelming. The characters are one-dimensional, except for the women, who are point-like objects (radio astronomy joke, ho ho). I much prefer Brunner's later, anthropo-apocalyptic stories such as The Sheep Look Up and Stand on Zanzibar.
More simplistic than Stand on Zanzibar, and it noticeably runs as fast as it can to end at 300 pages. Still, an enjoyable story, an interesting mystery, and a hopeful ending lead me to recommend it. You won't find the deep moral questions and crazy lingo of Zanzibar, but you will find a nice little story.