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Total Eclipse

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  400 ratings  ·  43 reviews
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 m ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 206 pages
Published February 7th 1984 by DAW (first published 1974)
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Average rating 3.44  · 
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 ·  400 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: daw_own
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 myste
Michael Drakich
Oct 04, 2018 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Zantaeus Glom
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 ...more
Brian Clegg
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 t
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 fa ...more
Matt Shaw
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 an ...more
João Sousa
Apr 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: argonauta
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.
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
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
Joachim Boaz
Mar 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Full review:

"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
Brown Robin
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
Andrew Brooks
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
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 23, 2019 rated it liked it
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.

Dave Osmond
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Nov 28, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting ideas. The pacing was a bit odd in places and I disliked the romance (ymmv).
Ana Laura
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi-reads
I did not expect to cry with this.
F Craig
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
Mar 31, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I guess this deserves a bit more than 3.0 stars...

I'm really not sure why the book didn't leave me with a more positive impression. It's subject would interest me and I've like other books by John Brunner.

A group of scientists are investigating the ruins of an alien civilization found in the Sigma Draconis system. Evidence indicates the civilization grew quickly - from stone age to space age in 3000 years, then disappeared 100,000 years ago. The story tries to show a series of insights that help
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another gloriously bleak dystopian story by Brunner, set on a planet once home to a highly advanced but long-lost alien society. Teams of humans, sent from an Earth that is precariously cooperative but also prone to paranoia and teetering on the brink of internal collapse, hope to uncover the mysteries behind the fall of this technologically savvy alien race, possibly providing some insight to the troubles on their own planet.

There are quite a few different characters to keep track of, especial
Isabel (kittiwake)
The story of an investigation into the only alien civilisation ever discovered, which flourished for 3000 years, disappearing 100,000 years before the star ship from earth reaches their planet.

The archaeological investigation into the aliens was very interesting since they were so different from humans, and the final discovery of why the rise and fall of their civilisation happened in such a short period of time was worth the wait. However I kept thinking that I had read it before, probably beca
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Ehh, It was okay. I actually found this book in my car that must've belonged to the previous owner. My pops used to read 'Icerigger' to me and other sci-fi novels to me when I was younger which is rather odd, but I don't remember disliking it. I have never been much of a Sci-fi fan, but I decided to give it a try. I got off to a good start then the book wasn't that enthralling later on. I lost interest in it pretty fast, I found myself speed reading through some of the chapters. Maybe in a coupl ...more
Jul 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
As several other reviewers noted this book has interesting ideas and lays out a very challenging problem but uses a poor reveal of the solution (it came to me in a dream!), and a short last chapter that is as much of a downer as any book you'll ever read through to the end. I love Sheep Look Up and Stand on Zanzibar and Shockwave Rider but this aint that. Also, the cartoon martinet at the beginning drove the first couple of chapters of the story then abruptly left the plot making for a very disj ...more
Oct 25, 2016 rated it liked it
I should say that I enjoyed myself reading this, even though it's hard to explain why. At times there wasn't much of a plot, but still, there's something fun and intriguing about the basic idea: if you're faced with a mystery about how an alien race went extinct, how do you deduce what happened?

With that said, it still feels like the draft of a novel more than a finished novel. Brunner could have used a heavy-handed editor to help him out with a lot of things (that I don't want to go into becaus
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure why people aren't as keen on this as Brunner's other work! The alien archaeology angle is woefully underused in most other science-fiction novels, and the the novel's melancholy tone provides a great atmosphere. Sure, it's not as overloaded with concepts and information like his other novels, like The Sheep Look Up (which I've read) and Stand on Zanzibar (which I want to read), but the smaller scale was honestly refreshing. ...more
May 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Hmmm. There was no eclipse in this book so I am mystified about the title. It was nice to read an adult book even if it was about space and extinct alien civilizations. I think it was written in the 60s or 70s but it was a smart book and kind of fun. I don't think there was swearing and there was only implied sex. ...more
Jul 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full of interesting ideas. But sometimes too intellectual for me. The explanation for the decline of the alien civilization was not quite convincing for me. The end is depressing and leaves a feeling of futility.
Dec 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, own
This novel is about extinction, whether of an alien race or the human race. Decisions have consequences, sometimes long after they are made. On the whole a good read, although mostly melancholy.
Erik Graff
Jun 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Brunner fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
As ever, Brunner presents here another well-written science fiction story with a socio-political point relevant to his contemporaries.
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Grade A-.
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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

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