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What Mad Universe

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,081 ratings  ·  115 reviews
The editor of a sci-fi pulp magazine is accidentally transported to a parallel universe where space travel is common, Earth is at war with creepy aliens, New York City isn't safe after dark, and his girlfriend is with someone else. Regularly appears on "Greatest science fiction" lists. ...more
Paperback, 205 pages
Published August 1978 by Bantam Books (first published 1949)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Fredric Brown was a true ubermensch of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, and his short stories are still among the best ever written in the genre. I mean that. Best...Ever...Written.

What Mad Universe is one of only a handful of SF novels that he wrote, a tear-inducing shame given how bursting with amazing it is. What's so unique about this tale is that it's both classic pulp SF in its own right, while at the same time acting as an examination/critique of pulp SF stereotypes.

Double your ple
Jun 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This old classic SF deserves to be called a classic. :) Even now, it feels fairly unique and very interesting, a solid riff off of the golden age SF and a nearly seamless conjunction with alternate reality with all kinds of BEMs. (Bug Eyed Monsters).

SF in our universe, and Fact in the other. Aliens everywhere! War of the Worlds, Mars, Venus, Teleportation, Motherships, subjugation, it's all here.

So what is this professional in the SF field going to do when faced with a reality that is everything
Jack Tripper
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the "science" in this science-fiction novel makes Philip K. Dick seem like Arthur C. Clarke, this was pure, non-stop entertainment. It has a light, humorous tone throughout, though this isn't like a Douglas Adams novel, but more like early PKD, only slightly more ridiculous and free-wheeling.

The basic gist is that there's a man, Keith, living in the very near future (at the time), who works as an editor for various sf and weird magazines that were so prevalent back in the day. On the same
Manuel Antão
Oct 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Vintage Wave-function Collapse: "What Mad Universe" by Fredric Brown

And then you say "putting ideas under the noses of the people who most hate them. That's what science fiction exists for." You sure about that? I suspect most readers who expressed a preference would say that they are generally rather keen on ideas. In fact, the literary-fiction crowd often use 'the idea is the protagonist' as a stick with which to beat SF. The problem
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015

It all started with a BIG BANG !

Caught in the center of the explosion is Keith Winton, the editor of one of those fantastic pulp magazines that flourished in the 1930's and 1940'sAmerica. His own magazine is called "Surprising Stories" and specializes in planetary romance with lurid covers of scantily dressed young women chased by a BEM. (*)


(*) Bug-Eyed Monster
image copyright : Fastner & Larson

From his post-Depression New York life, Keith Winton is thrown into a parallel universe where said
Richard Derus
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindled
Real Rating: 4.75* of five

These old Golden Agers are novellas! Just realized it. Need to cogitate.
Mar 09, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although better known for his (extremely brief) short stories, Frederic Brown was also an extremely accomplished novelist. The solidity of his prose style is remarkable: he was just a very good writer, able to express sometimes quite complex ideas very clearly indeed.

This novel was published in 1949 and it's a mark of how sophisticated the SF field was becoming in the hands of such writers as Brown (and Sprague de Camp and a few others) that they were able to twist their imaginations around to d
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
A fun, unintentionally campy tale about a man trapped in an alternate universe. I love that Brown's vision of the future had Earthlings casually traveling to other planets, yet they still had to line up to use a phone booth. I definitely want to read more of this guy's stuff! ...more
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“…it seemed suddenly to Keith, a one-dimensional world. There was only a forward and backward in it as long as each of them—he and the unknown—groped their way along the building fronts. Like ants crawling along string they must meet and pass unless one of them turned.”

Purple monsters, mistouts, parallel universes, computer brains named Mekky: What kind of mad universe is this?

Brown’s What Mad Universe harkens back to the classic 50s sci-fi films, which oftentimes pitted humans against creatur
Nov 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
A charming golden-age sci-fi tale that isn't afraid to poke fun at its own genre (why, of course space girls are scantily clad. Why wouldn't they be?). Perhaps funniest of all, though (maybe unintentionally) is the fact that the main character is whisked away to a parallel universe where everyone wants to kill him and his main concern is that his parallel universe girlfriend is engaged to someone else. ...more
Peter Tillman
Holds up pretty well for a 70 year old homage to even earlier pulp fiction. In a 1950 review of the first edition, P. Schuyler Miller praised the novel as a "gleeful mulligan stew of well tried ingredients dished up with that all-important difference in flavor." I think my favorite bit was the Editor Keith's GF Betty, who's a Space Girl in the alternate universe. Space Girls wear a two-piece uniform: a skin-tight top and very short shorts. Keith asks Betty if spaceships here are very hot inside. ...more
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting subtlety which I didn't glom onto the first time I read this: it's not actually what's in the scifi geek's brain, but what the editor guy imagines would be in there. lol The whole thing with the blackouts was very well thought out and extrapolated. ...more
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf
Really enjoyable to find some real science fiction in the old style. I enjoyed it very much, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good, quick read. Not so easy to find anymore, but worth it.
John Loyd
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A rocket has been sent to the moon. It is equipped with a device to make a great flash so that people on Earth can see evidence of the landing. Unfortunately the rocket malfunctions, falls back to Earth, kills eleven people and Keith Winton who is at ground zero is sent to an alternate reality. A universe that has duplicates of many people, right down to the letters to the editor being exactly the same. It also has a habitable Moon, Venus and Mars, actual bug-eyed monsters that are attacking Ear ...more
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is SF pulp mocking SF pulp! It was first published as a book in 1949. The writer of the introduction to the 1978 edition says it was first published in a magazine in 1948. It is the first time I had seen the acronym BEM (big-eyed monster) and did not learn what it meant until after I finished the book. As a spoof of SF pulp it will never go out of style.

Keith Winton, editor of the sci-fi magazine Surprising Stories, has fallen head-over-heels in love with Betty Hadley, editor of the r
200119: well now i have read some pulp sf. enough to sort of enjoy this satire, i guess i still think of this in postmodern terms, as genre talking about genre, as familiar tropes subverted and maybe (i don’t know) scenes/characters scrambled in. is it possible to parody that which already parodies itself? ask about austin powers and james bond...

261110: i have not read pulp sf in its first time so the parody is of a type of lit i know only through critical work. this is ranked as best, incorpor
Tom Mathews
Pure sci-fi pulp from the 1940s, which is entertaining but I expected more of a spoof on pulps and less actual pulp. Enjoyable but probably not too memorable.

My thanks to the folks at the Pulp Fiction group for introducing this and many other fine books.
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
review of
Fredric Brown's What Mad Universe
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 20, 2018

I'm still in the midst of my Fredric Brown spree. It's always fun to be excited about a previously unread author & to read a slew of their works in quick succession. So far, I've read 3 crime fiction novels of his: Night of the Jabberwock ( ), The Lenient Beast ( ), & Here Comes A Candle (
DeAnna Knippling
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
A pulp magazine editor travels to an alternate dimension under attack by bug-eyed monsters!

This is one of those satires of the old pulp era where you're not sure where it was an hommage or a satire, like a guy deciding whether an offensive statement was a joke or not only after getting an audience reaction. IS the main character a sexist "I know all the science and am the only one who can save us all" jerk, or IS he a satire of one? Is this real or a fantasy, and if so, whose? WHO, in the end, i
Jim  Davis
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
I just finished re-reading "What Mad Universe" and I'm surprised at how much less I enjoyed it than I did the first time I read it in the 1970's. This only reinforces my impression that Brown was much, much better at shorter lengths when it came to SF, although paradoxically, his crime/mystery novels were very well written and enjoyable.

It appears that this novel is intended to be a mildly humorous poke at pulp SF conventions and SF fandom. While it was timely and fresh in 1949 it falls flat to
Tom Britz
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book was a pleasure to read. Imagine the 1940' -50's science fiction field, with all of its bug-eyed monsters and super science with the near naked women gracing all the covers along with the all American buffed hero, then imagine that due to a near by rocket crash with an experimental device on board, that you are thrust into a world where that is your reality. That is what happened to our hero, Keith Winton.

Keith awakens in this new reality wondering where his boss's estate went, where t
Aug 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Classic “alternative universe” tale, where narrator doesn’t fit into the new universe he’s be dumped in, and longs to return home to woo the woman who dumped him in the new universe. It’s more interesting than that—an intergalactic war; shoot on sight orders, etc.—but the premise that the narrator begins as editor of an SF pulp magazine and winds up living in one makes this a quick and charming read.
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
An SF classic, somewhat dated, but still pleasurable. What if you were suddenly transported into a parallel world, where someone else were you, and you were in danger because of an intergalactic war? Not PKD, but what is? This still is a fun read.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thought it was a fun read overall and it prompts me to read more sci-fi in the future.
Ben Fitts
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A funny, pulpy delight
Phillip Carter
Mar 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steve Stuart
This is a well respected, classic sci fi novel that routinely makes it onto lists of the top books in the genre. It predates the Hugos or Nebulas, or it surely would have won some awards. So I was fairly surprised that I didn't actually enjoy it that much. It's the best novel-length work by a sci-fi author who is better known for his short stories… perhaps that should have told me something.

I suppose the problem is that I can't get enthusiastic about pulp-era science fiction. This is a satire of
Ken Richards
Nov 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Got these books in the glory days when F&SF books sold by mail order, with a 25% discount if 100 USD value was ordered. And these were the days when an Australian dollar was valued at $1.25 US (the correct value of course!).

Worth it for the sewing machine based space drive!

Holger Haase
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fredric Brown these days is more known for his Science Fiction than his mystery books, however, so far I always favoured his mystery/Noir novels. For starters most of his Sci Fi are short stories and I usually prefer longer form. Plus there is an element of humour in those that hasn't always aged that well so though I always liked his Sci Fi up to now I never really loved it.

But that has now changed.....

WHAT MAD UNIVERSE is an absolutely fantastic bit of writing. Very meta when hardly anyone was
"Protagonist Keith Winton, beleaguered editor of Surprising Stories suddenly finds himself in an alternate universe. Like all good alt-unis, this one is exactly like ours save for one small detail: in 1903, a Harvard professor attempting to repair his wife's sewing machine inadvertently invented an interstellar drive."
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Sci-Fi Group Book...: What Mad Universe 11 13 Dec 18, 2018 01:03PM  

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Fredric Brown was an American science fiction and mystery writer. He was one of the boldest early writers in genre fiction in his use of narrative experimentation. While never in the front rank of popularity in his lifetime, Brown has developed a considerable cult following in the almost half century since he last wrote. His works have been periodically reprinted and he has a worldwide fan base, m ...more

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