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Total Eclipse

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In 2020, an international space team, exploring Sigma Draconis, 19 light years from earth, discovers the remains of a highly advanced society that has left behind its most spectacular artifact; the largest telescope imaginable, carved & polished from a natural moon crater. Successive space crews determine that the native culture evolved & disappeared mysteriously after a mere 3000 years of existence. It's now 2028. Another mission reaches the planet with just one goal--to discover why the civilization disappeared--& with just one hope--that this knowledge will prevent the same thing from happening on earth.
Exhibiting that rare sense of sf mystery that distinguished Arthur C. Clarke's 2001, John Brunner weaves a haunting tale of how 30 people attack the nearly insuperable task of unriddling the mysteries of a long-buried culture. Was it a fatal virus, an internecine war, a religion of lunatic brutality or a deleterious mutation that destroyed an entire civilization? All remains hypothesis until Ian Macauley unravels the riddle. But does it provide a solution to human problems & will the answer reach earth in time?

206 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1974

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About the author

John Brunner

415 books392 followers
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).[2]

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

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"..

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 51 reviews
Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews257 followers
June 29, 2020
DAW collectors #162

Cover Artist: Christopher Foss.

Alternate Names: K. Houston Brunner, Kilian Houston Brunner,, Henry Crosstrees, Jr., Gill Hunt, John Loxmith, Ellis Quick, Trevor Staines, Keith Woodcott.

Set in the early 21st century, the story details the amazing discoveries being made at an archaeological dig on Sigma Draconis III, which, it seems, was populated by an enigmatic race of aliens who evolved from primitivism to technological genius in a scant 3000-year period, only to vanish mysteriously leaving exactly one each of a myriad of artifacts behind. As the novel opens, a fresh team of scientists is arriving at the mystery shrouded world from an Earth plagued by war and strife. Along for the ride is a profoundly paranoid Bolivian military general, who has been sent along by an equally paranoid U.N. to make sure that the scientists are not in fact digging up some amazing ancient alien weaponry with the intent of unleashing it upon the less well defended nations of their home world. The general, and the whole subplot, are as richly silly as anything out of one of those low-rent 1950's B-movies you often used to see on the late and lamented Mystery Science Theatre 3000. But oddly, he excuses himself from the proceedings after the first 60 pages or so, depriving the story of its clearest source of conflict and leaving us, for the most part, with lots of exposition and speculation coming from a stereo typically culturally diverse yet blandly homogeneous cast of Idealistic Scientists.
Profile Image for Michael Drakich.
Author 11 books70 followers
October 4, 2018
A tough one to grade. The author goes to a great extent in an attempt to describe an alien culture where its citizens are blind, deaf and dumb, but communicate everything through magnetic resonances. Unique in some ways which give the novel its science fiction credo, but lackluster in the story which detracts from the total product. In truth, I didn't really begin to enjoy the novel until the second half as the first seemed trivial.
Profile Image for Zantaeus Glom.
144 reviews
January 26, 2014
Mr. Brunner has a tremendously agile imagination, and while I found much to admire about this absorbing, albeit talky, archaeological mystery on Sigma Draconis, I was a little alienated by the ending; while coolly logical, it was not only extraordinarily bleak, but somehow it also felt rather rushed. And after the glorious Epiphany in the final act, the tale ends somewhat abruptly; and, frankly, as I enjoyed spending time with these obsessive eggheads, it left me on a major bummer; which in all likelihood might well be Brunner's intention!

It was interesting to note how much of this read like an Asimov robot story; a human with a Promethean scientific mind is posed with a seemingly impossible alien conundrum, and yet the socially awkward, stoic logician solves said anomaly with applied scads of vertiginous genius and dogged, deductive reasoning. I also feel that 'Total Eclipse' might either have benefited from being shorter, or, conversely, by Brunner's embellishing it into a decidedly weightier tome; yes, the more I think about it, the final act really needed to be considerably more layered and; all the filigree detail during the unfolding is completely absent at the end; blunt verse; blunter ending!...still a bit narked, really! (Grrrr! it's always dashed annoying when one really digs on 2 thirds of a book, since everything you did genuinely enjoy about the work is tainted by the little that you didn't!)

Also, what gives about the massive telescope, man??? I was eagerly awaiting a brain-freezing 'Monolith' reveal, and...nada, butkiss! THE TELESCOPE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As they say, one should never judge a book by the size of the telescope on the cover. To whit, in future, I will remain wholly oblivious to all the demonstratively sized hardware emblazoned on crusty old 70's SF novels.

"They, whoever, whatever they were, came to their moon and smoothed and rounded and polished a whole vast crater and made it into the largest telescope imaginable. And they're dead"

Profile Image for Brian Clegg.
Author 185 books2,513 followers
October 11, 2019
Of all the 'classic' science fiction writers, John Brunner was probably the most variable. At his best - which I would say was The Shockwave Rider - he was great. But equally, quite a few of his novels appear to be dashed off to make a bit of money without a lot of thought. In some ways, Total Eclipse sits somewhere between the two.

It's a book of ideas. The eclipse in the title is not the astronomical version, but rather the eclipse of a civilisation. Earth's one starship makes occasional trips (constrained by budget and politics) to a planet where the remains of a civilisation has been discovered. We follow the latest trip, attempting to make some sense of the baffling remains that have been left behind.

In some ways the attempts to understand the alien remnants are reminiscent of (but far better than) the attempts to decipher alien language in the movie Arrival. Brunner did one of the best jobs I've seen of setting up a genuinely alien culture and the difficulties that xenoarcheologists might have in understanding what they are finding. Although one of the means used to try to get into the mindset of the aliens is downright silly, it's still a genuinely engaging challenge, especially as a kind of parallel emerges with human developments.

The book does have its problems. It's very cold - there is no feeling of engagement with the characters. This is very much an intellectual exercise, and the attempts at building in social interaction feel forced. The presence of a pantomime nasty general in the early pages doesn't help. It also has a couple of issues of feeling dated, particularly around the use of tapes for data and in the programme that it's suggested the aliens undertook - which with our current scientific understanding seems unlikely.

Even so, despite the flaws this is a genuinely interesting book which achieves a far better idea of an alien culture that isn't just a variant on a human one than I have seen elsewhere. Overall, it should be counted as one of Brunner's successes.
Profile Image for Vygandas Ostrauskis.
Author 6 books99 followers
June 17, 2021
Į šį mano vertinimą per daug nekreipkite dėmesio – nesu nei mokslinės-fantastinės literatūros žinovas, nei mėgėjas. Per metus perskaitau vos vieną kitą tos rūšies knygą. Šią turiu savo bibliotekoje, man ypatingo įspūdžio nepadarė, bet negaliu teigti, kad ir bloga...
Profile Image for John Loyd.
1,102 reviews29 followers
January 12, 2022
There are thirty scientists on Sigma Draconis investigating the intelligent life that was once there. Earth has one starship funded by an international fund. In the two years since its last voyage tensions on Earth have increased and this trip may be the last one. A Bolivian general needs to be convinced there are no conspiracies and has the authority to shut everything down. If all goes well ten new scientists will stay and an equal number will return home.

The first few chapters are about whether the project will be shut down or continue. After that it turns into a mystery of what caused the native race to go extinct. Ian is one of the recent arrivals and has a knack for coming up with useful insights. His expertise is in figuring out the language. These Draconians have a different body structure and don't even have the same senses as humans, so understanding them is a challenge.

Good characters, the mystery of why the Draconians died out held my interest, lots of interesting theories brought up and shot down. 3.5 stars. My reasoning for why all the cities were alike would be more like assembly line/cookie cutter, rather than Brunner's they did it perfect the first time, all new cities will be that way from now on, but when he throws out dozens of these conclusions there's bound to be some like that. The epilog could have gone several different ways and he chose one.
Profile Image for Joachim Boaz.
434 reviews52 followers
March 3, 2020
Full review: https://sciencefictionruminations.com...

"Over the years I’ve deluded myself into becoming a John Brunner completest — around twenty-five of his novels line my shelves and I’ve read most of them over the years. At his best he’s without question one of the great masters of the genre — Stand on Zanzibar (1968), The Sheep Look Up (1972), etc. are evidence of this. However, in-between his social science fiction masterpieces are a plethora of unsatisfying attempts at traditionalist space opera. In these works Brunner never fully leaves his pulp [...]"
Profile Image for Archebius.
9 reviews6 followers
August 25, 2013
I threw this book out when I was done reading it.

I've never done that with a book before. There are plenty of books that I don't like that I keep around - pass them on to other people, let them sit on my shelf, accumulate dust, what have you. But something set this book apart.

It had potential. And it wasted it.

For the first three-fourths of the book, I was extremely interested. I read the entire thing in a day and a half, which isn't a huge deal since it's a shorter book. Then, as I drew near the end, I started to feel like the author had backed himself into a corner - there were some interesting threads that hadn't been picked back up, the story was wandering, and the characters started to freak out about something that shouldn't have been a huge deal.

And then there was the reveal. And the depressing ending. I won't tell you what either one was because I'm not into the whole spoiler thing, but let me say this - the answer to the mystery sucks. It fits with the clues left like breadcrumbs through the book, but when you actually think about it, you realize that it just doesn't work. Brunner tries to draw analogies with human behavior and it falls flat.

This is a shame, because the lead up is really, really interesting. There are all kinds of fascinating theories thrown around, and the characters actually feel like a bunch of intelligent experts. I liked quite a few of them.

But it all goes to waste.

So, two stars for potential. I think that if Brunner had spent a little more time polishing the ending, it could have been four star material. As it is, I really can only justify the two stars because it really did keep me reading, first in interest, then in horror.
Profile Image for Glenn.
311 reviews2 followers
November 24, 2021
I saw a reference on the internet to John Brunner as a dystopian writer. I'm not sure that's true in any literal sense. Stand on Zanzibar was based on the rather pessimistic ideas of Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome, but The Shockwave Rider was based on the far more optimistic ideas of Alvin Toffler. In any event, ever since science fiction writers learned about the existence of the atomic bomb, they've been writing about ways in which we, ourselves, might bring about the end of the world. At least, of our world.

Mind you, that goes back, in various ways, even before World War II. Aldous Huxley wrote a book called Eyeless in Gaza. Those of you who are not familiar with the book of Judges should know that the allusion is to the legend of Samson. The Philistines captured Samson and put out his eyes. They brought him to their temple as a public spectacle. Samson's hair had grown out, and he brought the temple down on the crowd, killing three thousand, including himself.

Total Eclipse is a lovely, short, novel set in the 2020s. (It was published in 1974, so I guess that Brunner thought putting it fifty years in the future was sufficient.) Humans have discovered a distant planet which once had an amazing civilization, which has since died out. An exploratory group has been sent out from Earth to figure out what happened.

The story is nicely told, the characters are well-drawn, and the alien culture is beautifully imagined. The whole thing is, of course, a metaphor for human cultures. Are we, too, going to become so obsessed with winning, at any cost, that we condemn ourselves to extinction? Perhaps we have already passed the point of no return.

Considering the COP26 conference in Glasgow, I become ever more convinced that we will not take the measures required to prevent catastrophic climate change. We are too arrogant to take those measures. Like Hobbes' Leviathan, Total Eclipse is a warning against the evils of arrogance. What do you suppose are the chances that we will heed those warnings?
Profile Image for Chris Gager.
1,948 reviews76 followers
October 26, 2022
Next up when I finish one of the books I'm currently reading. I picked this off my rescued shelves. In this case probably rescued from the local transfer station's "stuff" trailer. I picked up another classic sci fi(C. J. Cherryh) today from a free book exchange box at the Brunswick 50-Plus building parking lot.

Moving along in fits and starts as this is not exactly a page-turner. More of an intellectual slog, actually. I read all the techo-babble and keep going for the sci-fi payoff. We'll see if it's any good. The big picture is interesting enough, while the writing is just serviceable.

- "peaches melba" s. b. "peach melba"

And so to the end of this reasonably engrossing, but not exactly exciting "thinking person's" sci-fi tale. The alien people, though long gone from Sigma Draconis III(a real-life star), play a very important role, in fact it's about a 50-50 split between them and the humans investigating them. The ending is kind of a bummer, though.

- Uh-oh, the author described an Arab character as "beak-nosed" - naughty naughty!

- Other reviewers have noted the humungous telescope maguffin is not explored AT ALL!
Profile Image for Frederick Heimbach.
Author 6 books18 followers
January 27, 2015
The characterization is slight and, after the improbable Spanish aristocrat departs in a cloud of space ship exhaust, the conflict drains out of the story. In short, Total Eclipse is a HAITE story (Here's An Idea. The End.) But what HAITE! The idea is pretty good, and Brunner strings it out. Even though the final reveal is presented in an uninteresting way (the scientist simply wakes up and realizes he's solved the puzzle) you still enjoy the explanation. It's all about the sudden decline and fall of an advanced civilization.

The other big idea (regarding the lengths to which someone might go to understand the psychology of an alien race) is pretty cool too. So, in all, a recommended read. Just don't expect the usual novelistic good stuff, such as interesting characters or well-paced plot.
Profile Image for Matt Shaw.
226 reviews1 follower
June 3, 2018
What a pleasant surprise. This book features a multi-ethnic team, capable female researchers, a credible description of a research team in action, and a real understanding of the difficulties of archaeology; such things certainly were not common in SF in 1974. The relics and research involving the extinct aliens is really similar to Alastair Reynolds' Amarantin culture in "Revelation Space," if the ultimate fate of the cultures differ greatly. This book reads fast, and is more similar in tone and presentation to SF of the 2010s than of the 1970s in many ways; not a plod through a dated book at all, but a fun, smart read. I'm a bit sad I dodged this for so long.
Profile Image for Richard Howard.
1,148 reviews9 followers
November 8, 2022
Much of John Brunner's later work was visionary: e.g. Shockwave Rider and The Sheep Look Up. This is an earlier work but shares with these the idea of a society on the edge of collapse. I don't think I've read a more pessimistic SF book than 'Total Eclipse' with this collapse involving not just one civilization but two. The first being the long dead Draconians and the second those humans sent to ascertain the reason for the extinction of that species. It is not an uplifting read but it is prescient in its vision of what might cause extinction.
Profile Image for João Sousa.
55 reviews6 followers
June 21, 2016
I found "Total Eclipse" a well structured and enjoyable book. There is, although, a lack of character development and some flatness in the way that everyone (besides main character) is presented, but still plot is fluid enough to balance some other weak elements.

There are some missing strings here and there, but as with all archaeological work (a main theme of this book) many times we have to rely on our own imagination to reconstruct a reality that does not exist anymore.
Profile Image for Tentatively, Convenience.
Author 16 books191 followers
October 31, 2013
review of
John Brunner's Total Eclipse
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 30, 2013

Whenever I read Brunner & I'm reminded of another writer it's always someone whose work I respect - J. G. Ballard, eg. In this case, I made a note to myself as soon as I started reading this that I was reminded of Arthur C. Clarke & Ursula K. LeGuin - again, 2 writers that I respect - but ones that don't quite fit into my personal canon as much as Ballard does (well, actually, LeGuin is probably in there but Clarke's a little too drily 'hard science' for it - altho it's mainly b/c I haven't read anything by him for 40+ yrs). Why Clarke? I was probably just thinking of the monolith in 2001 in comparison to the giant telescope on a moon in Total Eclipse.

The basic story is that humanity finds traces of a sophisticated civilization that blossomed & died at an unusually quick rate. The explorer's job is to try & figure out what happened to them? Did they really die off? If so, why? How? "He had sometimes mentioned to close friends a dream that haunted him concerning the disappearance of the Draconians: the possibility that they had been less lucky than mankind when they made their first experiments with hyperdrive." (p 9) The "Draconians" are so-called b/c their planet is "Sigma Draconis III". Nonetheless, I still wonder about the oddity of the 'inevitable' association w/ the legal meaning of the word "Draconian" - a harsh punishment.

Complicating this is that the socio-political situation back on Earth, many light yrs away, is getting worse & worse. The scientist astronauts are depending on support from Earth in order to keep their research going. & the problems on Earth & their associated bigotries are a threat to the research. A 1st hint of this is in something like this:

"And because Irene was both female and black, the choice was more likely to fall on Lieutenant Gyorgy Somogyi.

"Who's less well qualified and far less quick-thinking. High on the list of possible explanations for the extinction of the Draconians, so they tell me, is the idea that it was due to some fatal flaw in their nature. All too easily some stupid irrational prejudice could get rid of us, too, couldn't it?" - pp 11-12

As I read more & more by Brunner, this is the 23rd story I've read by him so far, the more respect I have for his various takes on the psychological affects of setting up humanity on another planet. There's Castaway's World ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/72... ), Bedlam Planet ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ), & now this.

Brunner, ever the political realist, portrays the problems on Earth:

"There had been famine in half a dozen densely populated countries, all of whose governments were controlled by greedy, short-sighted, thoughtless med whose first reaction when the starving mobs came battering at their gates was to accuse a scapegoat. The Starflight Fund was an obvious target. Rumours took their rise: here's another way the rich are cheating the poor, for if you hadn't had to subsidize the fund, there'd be another million in the treasury to spend on food!

"No mention, of course, of the fact that the Prime Minister had made his fortune by hoarding rice during the previous famine, or that the President's brother owned the nation's largest pharmaceutical factory and was taking a profit of 1700 per cent on every ampul of niacin, ascorbic acid and B12. That news was stale." - p 17

B/c of this situation & paranoias associated w/ it, a general has been sent from Earth to investigate the Sigma Draconis III base "and that was why General Ordoñez-Vico had been given power to order the abandonment of the Draco base, and the abolition of the Starflight Fund, if any hint, clue, trifling suspicion, triggered his all too obvious latent paranoia." (p 18)

Under pressure from the paranoid general, one of the less self-controlled of the scientists has an outburst in an attempt to explain the reality of the scientist's situation:

""There's a landslide somewhere. A concrete wall collapses, opens a whole building to the weather. There's a temblor, and a hundred buildings fall. All that can happen in one hundred years, and it's only the beginning. La Paz after a century, tumbledown, covered with creepers, the home of wild animals and snakes and butterflies and birds—how much could you tell about the way of life of a human family by burrowing into the rubble and rotting leaf mold, hm—if you were from another planet and had never seen a live human being? Ask yourself that! Here's a piano frame—but you have no ears, you never imagined music! Here's a tableknife—but you don't eat, you only drank liquids! Here's a sewing machine—but you have fur and don't wear clothes! After one century, how much sense would you make of what remained? And we're not talking about a hundred years here. We're talking about a hundred thousand! Ignorance? Don't make me laugh! It's taken genius for the people here to find out what they do know, and it's small thanks to the shortsighted fools who picked on you to come and pester them!" - p 63

Short-sightedness is a key idea here. Brunner explores the short-sightedness of polluters brilliantly in his ecological masterpiece The Sheep Look Up ( http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/3... ). People w/o vision of expansive future possibilities inhibit the imagination & the pursuit of knowledge. Brunner explores the possibility of trying to figure out whether the Draconians even had multiple languages, as we wd expect given our own Earthly experience:

""Well, Igor's insight suggested that they may not have had languages, plural, but at worst the equivalent of dialects . . . which would be a logical starting point anywhere in the universe, come to think of it. It's been shown that all human languages have a fundamentally identical structure—"


"["]You surely must have been told that baby talk in every known human language is grammatically consistent?"" - p 86

This is a subject that I will, 'no doubt', return to again & again for the rest of my life. One can read my essay about my relevant feature-length movie entitled Story of a Fructiferous Society here: http://www.othercinema.com/otherzine/... . & this justifies my reprinting a relevant part of an interview that I conducted under the name of "Party Teen on Couch #2" w/ someone calling himself "Party Teen on Couch #3":


3: Adamitic language..

2: Adamitic? I think that the idea of an Adamitic language is interesting but I’m wondering, you would know much more about this than I do because I know nothing about it since I know nothing about everything & everything about nothing, etc, etc.. - but, is there any sort of theory amongst linguists, or whatever the appropriate field of study would be, that you know of that tends to trace language back to common roots of any sort?

3: Yeah, there is, um, for example in Chomsky & linguistics you have this idea that you have something like semantics & patterns in a language which are common to all languages.

2: Does he develop this theory in great detail? In other words does he have a technical description of it?

3: Yeah, it’s called [unintelligible] schematic transformational grammar.

2: Could you say that again, please?

3: Generative transformational grammar.

2: Ok.

3: But actually I’m not that familiar with this kind of linguistics because linguistics in this century has very much split into various fields. You could say, from something like literary linguistics, which is mainly from the structuralist tradition; from Ferdinand de Saussure over Roman Jakobson to post-structuralism, deconstructionist approach as well as Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco - but, on the other hand, you have this kind of technical linguistics, Chomsky, for example, which is, actually, more the kind of linguistics which you study if you study linguistics properly, which is, for example, also important for computer linguistics if you generate speech recognition or speech systems & then you, mostly [unintelligible] to this kind of scientific linguistics - & then you also have philosophical linguistics like, uh, for example, speech act theory by Austin & Searle..

2: Which is what?

3: Well, uh, this is actually something where you could say that modern linguistics have an approach which is closer to the idea of Adamitic language because, well, the primary assumption of modern linguistics is that language is arbitrary - that a linguistic sign has no absolutely whatever organic relation to the thing which we represent.

2: So no onomatopoiea? or whatever?

3: Yes, that would be, actually this is a different [unintelligible] which has been introduced by Charles Saunders Peirce who differentiated between the iconic, the indexical, & the symbolic sign where you actually have these possibilities of the onomatopetic relationships but, um, no, the question’s rather, to quote Austin, how to do things with words. There is 1 problem - if you have arbitrary language, it just means that, for example, if I say the word "cassette” or if I write it down then it has no relationship whatsoever to a cassette & by saying the word "cassette” I’m not manipulating the matter of the cassette in a way. So, it’s a purely arbitrary relationship..

2: So that’s..

3: Somebody has just decided just to call this piece a cassette.

2: Which is opposite to Adamitic language.

3: Which is opposite to Adamitic language because in Adamitic language you will have an organic relationship between the word & the thing so that by uttering the word you would, for example, invoke or manipulate the thing so like the classical example is of the Genesis where god says, uh "It shall be light” & then it’s light. This is Adamitic language. & the theory, the theory of Adamitic language as it’s notably present in the Kabala & in Jewish mysticism is that in the paradise, before the expulsion from the paradise Adam actually possessed a language which was similar to that of the divine language - where he was capable, for example, of naming animals. & that this original language where you could invoke & manipulate things with was lost when humanity was expelled from the Garden of Eden. So, um, the whole, um, occupation of Kabalism, or also you could say magic in general, is to, sortof, regain command over things by the means of language. & you could say that, in a way you could use it as a critique against modern linguistics because, for example, if Bill Clinton, today, says, uh, "Drop the atom bomb over Moscow” then the atom bomb would actually be dropped because he has the power & the possibility to do so. & just by saying this & by, maybe, having a few codes, or whatever, this would be made to happen today. So you could say that modern linguistics in defining language as arbitrary is actually missing some aspects. It cannot answer the question of how language is actually capable of directly invoking things or making things happen. & this is, for example, a matter which has been discussed by speech act theory - that’s exactly the question of speech act theory, how you..

2: Speech act?

3: Speech act theory, yes, by, notably by Austin & um..

2: Austin’s spelled A,u,s,t,i,n?

3: Exactly, yeah. He was an Oxford linguist, I think in the 1930s.

2: So is the concept of Adamitic language mainly supposedly originating from Kabalists or from who?

3: I would say it’s probably related in all kinds of magical or even metaphysical notions of language. I have thought about, for example, what, how 1 could locate multiple names as they are used in Neoism - in, uh, in either Adamitic or arbitrary language. I think this is extremely interesting because my theory is that they are both - or neither of them, in a way - because, when you say, you have a multiple name, an open situation, everybody can use that name & share this identity there was an extreme case of an arbitrary name - because the name is not naturally given to you - you know, it’s not like somebody’s born & he has, uh, he gets a name & the name is stamped on the passport but, it’s, it’s, it’s a name, say, Monty Cantsin, Luther Blissett, Karen Eliot. &, um, uh, as you wrote, the name is fixed, but the people using it aren’t. So this would be like the classical definition of arbitrary language in a way - the same way as I say, for example, if I take beer, then the notion, the word beer, b, double e, r, is fixed, but, for example, the meaning may change over the centuries - something like this..

2: Let’s make a projection right now. Am I interupting your train of thought too much?

3: A little bit. Ok, so 1 could say, on the 1 hand, the use of multiple names is a use of language as extremely arbitrary - where you’ve got an extremely flexible signifier-and-signified or sign-and-thing relationship. It’s the highest possible flexibilization of the sign-and-thing relation. On the other hand, as soon as you participate in that multiple name, you are immediately, since there is no fixed referent, say there is no fixed referent for Luther Blissett because there is no person Luther Blissett - or, also, Monty Cantsin - it’s a fiction, it’s a fiction created by those using the name. So, you could say that by sharing this identity, by adopting this arbitrary name, you, you get the immediate power to, to change it. Yeah? Which is like Adamitic language. Because you are now able to do something in the name of Monty Cantsin, Karen Eliot, Luther Blissett, & so on & actively participate in the shaping of the identity & you can, sortof, directly invoke the character of Monty Cantsin by using the name. So that would be an extreme example of Adamitic language. So, so that, that’s, uh, that multiple names, sortof, a kindof flip-flop thing, you know? where you..

2: What d’ya think about the idea of extending that type of thinking so that, for example, beer, the word beer, would be an open concept that could refer to any object? etc, I mean, this obviously refers back to my interest that anything is anything or anything as anything, etc, etc.. Or just taking all words & making them open contexts which can be used freely by the people who choose to use those words in this manner. So, for example, I might say to you "Pass the beer” but I could mean anything by that & you could respond in whatever way you felt appropriate.

3: Yeah, this would actually be the, exactly match post-structuralist or contemporary linguistics. That you say there is no fixed meaning for any word & the meaning actually.. the, the - this is justified by the use or by the difference - that you say "beer is not wine”, for example. Yeah, that you have a purely relational definition & usage but there is no actual referent to the word.


Ok, that was a long tangent but wasn't it great?! After all, ""There's an old saying: The genius sees what happens, but the plodder sees what he expects to happen.["]" (p 88)

Brunner's political group experience shows: ""Does anybody disagree violently?" Rorschach inquired, and when nobody else spoke up continued, "So resolved, then.["]" (p 126) A theme explored in Bedlam Planet of how astronaut colonists become natives is here too: "Nobody wanted to settle permanently on Sigma Draconis III, because they hadn't come here as colonists, but as investigators." (p 175) In summary, an important political question relevant to the afore-mentioned short-sightedness appears: "How often have human beings acted against their own best interests, and particularly on behalf of some small group rather than in favor of the race as a whole?" (p 186) Indeed.
Profile Image for Saya.
376 reviews5 followers
July 20, 2018
Me encantan las historias sobre encuentros con los restos de otras civilizaciones quizá ya desaparecidas, pero también me gustan los libros bien escritos, y por desgracia este no acaba de serlo. La idea es maravillosa, pero por desgracia la ejecución empaña su brillo. Antes que nada, debo decir que la traducción al español que yo he leído deja mucho que desear (de hecho, parece que la hicieron tres personas distintas; incluso en el último tercio del libro aparecen expresiones propias del español latino que no había visto antes), por lo que quizá eso ayude a que mi opinión sobre la novela no sea todo lo positiva que me gustaría.

La idea (un equipo de arqueólogos en un planeta remoto intentando averiguar por qué una raza alienígena supuestamente avanzadísima desapareció de manera abrupta) es buena, muy buena, pero tiene demasiados puntos que no acaban de ser explicados en el libro. Por ejemplo, cómo construyeron los draconianos su telescopio en la luna y por/para qué. Sorprende que los humanos viajen tan tranquilos por un mundo cuya fauna y flora autóctonas existen (son mencionadas alguna que otra vez) sin preguntarse si estar en contacto con esa atmósfera y todo lo que la habita pueda tener algún tipo de efecto secundario en su salud a largo plazo. Me hubiera parecido más creíble tener a varios equipos dispersos por el planeta estudiando más cosas a parte de los restos arqueológicos, aunque teniendo en cuenta que en la Tierra la situación no es precisamente estable, tiene sentido que hubiesen priorizado un campo de estudio sobre el resto.

A lo largo de toda la lectura he tenido la sensación de que los personajes, planos, simples y muy iguales entre ellos (excepto Ian e Igor), eran una mera excusa para que Brunner pudiese exponer todas sus ideas y cavilaciones, poniéndolas en boca de los distintos personajes de manera artificial y forzada. La mayoría de conversaciones me resultaron artificiales , y los conflictos se resuelven de forma poco creíble ; parece como si Brunner quisiera introducir este tipo de vivencias para darle más realismo y humanidad a la obra, pese a que al final solo consigue que sus ideas acaben repartidas casi a partes iguales entre todos los personajes.

No todo iba a ser malo, por supuesto. El final, pese a lo abrupto y pesimista (odio lo primero y adoro lo segundo), redondea esas capas de profundidad que tiene la obra con respecto a la situación de la Tierra y su relación con la expedición. Me quedan muchas dudas sobre los draconianos y sobre la Tierra y, como decía al inicio, no sé si será cosa de la traducción (por desgracia, creo que sí; ya sabemos todos que la calidad de las traducciones de obras de ciencia ficción de hace unas cuantas décadas dejaba mucho que desear), pero no tengo la sensación de haber aprendido tantas cosas sobre ellos como el libro plantea.

Yo quería que este libro me gustara. Y no me ha desagradado, pero me ha dejado con ganas de más... y de manera diferente, quizá. El libro quería ser profundo, pero por desgracia no lo consigue. En cualquier caso, y pese a que me ha quedado una reseña bastante más negativa de lo que me gustaría, recomiendo su lectura, aunque sea solo por el planteamiento, y que cada uno saque sus conclusiones. No creo que esta obra deje indiferente, y algo me dice que seguiré pensando en ella durante un tiempo.
Profile Image for Steve Rainwater.
167 reviews10 followers
December 23, 2021
John Brunner at his best.

This is the story of a group scientists arriving at Sigma Draconis on Earth's one and only starship. They're relieving another group who have been onsite for two years studying the dead planet that once hosted a thriving, space-faring civilization. This is the first hint of intelligent life ever found outside of Earth but, because they died out 100,000 years ago, not much can be found to study. On the planet's airless moon are the remains of a giant telescope with a 36 km mirror built into the surface. They've also found "libraries" of crystal objects that contain electromagnetic wave recordings but no one has yet been able to translate them.

The new group of scientists will get their two year crack at learning who the aliens were and what happened to them. And it may be the last chance. It takes a massive amount of money to operate the starship and Earth is descending in chaos, paranoia, and possibly war. The UN fund that operates the starship may be shut down after this research cycle.

Most of the book revolves around the efforts of Ian Macauley, a linguist who is attempting to make sense of the crystal recordings. The book reminded me at times of H. Beam Piper's famous short story, "Omnilingual" in which a linguist finds a method of translating the language of a long-dead Martial civilization (a method that became a standard trope of science fiction ever since).

The final result of Ian's research managed to surprise and fascinate me. Definitely worth a read.
Profile Image for Kivrin.
726 reviews11 followers
July 9, 2022
It was on its way to being 5 star but I like Brunner's writing (don't think I've ever read anything else of his). It's clear, fast-paced, has good likeable characters. Humanity has discovered the remains of an alien civilization on another planet and sets out to discover what happened to the long vanished race. There's lots of science of all kinds at play, and I enjoyed following their reasoning. The payoff is nicely done.

I liked many of the characters although I found the lack of character flaws to be totally unbelievable although in the end when all the flaws appeared, I was disappointed.
398 reviews9 followers
August 30, 2020
This is Brunner doing a passable impression of Stanislaw Lem. It is a work which, through an extreme objectivity feels like we are watching experimental subjects through some sort of scope (called English Prose, I believe) almost as though we were watching these aliens conduct their researches on our dead culture.

The tone and affect of the story are the show, really, as the characters and plot take a back seat. It works for me because of the sustained focus. It whetted my appetite for Brunner's other experimental novels, though I have not yet attempted them.

Brunner also manages to suggest how difficult engaging with an ET will be, should the event arise.
Profile Image for Andrew Brooks.
188 reviews14 followers
November 16, 2020
Still good

Unfortunately this has become a bit dated. Also simpler than other works of his I'm familiar with; likely an side effect of it's time, when the publishing industry was insisting on shorter formats. There were some elements that could have developed a more complex storyline. Also, the ending is morbid, dwelling for some pages in the rambling of a dying man, and the last man on the planet. Some will find such thoughts interesting and insightful, but not for me
Profile Image for Daniel Subiabre.
22 reviews1 follower
February 2, 2019
Un drama especial. Una civilización extinta hace 100.000 años es lo que se encuentran en un planeta muy alejado de la tierra.
Es una novela que invita a la reflexión sobre el actual estado de las cosas en nuestro mundo. ¿Nos extinguiremos algún día gracias a nuestra soberbia?
Un libro que gustará a los fanáticos de la ciencia ficción.
Profile Image for Milan.
Author 66 books12 followers
December 5, 2020
Klasický sci-fi postup - jeden nápad, jedna kniha. Obsahom aj spracovaním novelka pripomína skôr nejaký časopisecký príbeh na lacnom papieri s bachratými mimozemšťanmi na krikľavej obálke. Preklad raného Kořínka je, asi v záujme prirodzenosti, načuchnutý češtinou, rozuzlenie by si možno zaslúžilo o hviezdičku viac, prečo sa to volá Úplné zatmenie som asi nepochopil.
Profile Image for Melissa.
242 reviews6 followers
June 28, 2019
I found the book kinda hard to get into. It picked up in the middle and I felt the end was rushed. I found the idea of the aliens going bankrupt kinda hard to follow when Ian was explaining it. I wonder what happened on earth? Wonder if they ever came back for them?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for E B.
127 reviews
July 23, 2019
A book about mankind finding a alien planet which did have intelligent life. The aliens die off long before mankind makes it to the planet and the astronauts attempt to find why the aliens went extinct.

Profile Image for Jack.
148 reviews1 follower
December 9, 2021
One of the scariest stories ever told



The scientists finally figured out what flaw caused the Sigma Draconians to go extinct. What might our overlooked flaw be.
Profile Image for Christian.
120 reviews2 followers
February 18, 2020
Al principio asoma algo intrigante, pero no. La trama principal se asoma como algo interesante, pero se desinfla. Y ahí se terminó el libro.
Profile Image for Dave Osmond.
137 reviews1 follower
September 15, 2020
This was a surprisingly good read, with interesting characters and a pretty good story line. I'm always down for a novel about lost alien civilizations, and this one had some fun twists to it.
Profile Image for Katy.
402 reviews4 followers
November 28, 2020
Interesting ideas. The pacing was a bit odd in places and I disliked the romance (ymmv).
75 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2017
Reading note, 2011.
Utopia/SF project book six. Very much in the hard-science mode—and indeed, the science aspects (real or imagined) are the most successful elements here—the novel explores the fundamental unknowability of the alien (in contrast to so much mass-audience SF where the alien is a two-legged, two-eyed creature like us only with a bigger head). Set in a far future where Earth has developed an interstellar drive (2028!), a collection of scientists attempt to understand the culture and disappearance of an alien species on a planet in a distant solar system.

The book is somewhat uneven—the romantic elements are especially weak, and the researchers are too prone to categorically affirm or deny hypotheses about a species that went extinct on its planet 100,000 years ago—but in the end it was an engaging read with a haunting ending (somewhat reminiscent of Asimov's groundbreaking short story "Nightfall"). I probably should have read 'Solaris' first since it deals with the same theme and there are clear references to that book here (the interstellar ship is called "Stellaris").
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