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The Crucible of Time

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  1,034 ratings  ·  65 reviews
There are some incredibly smart things Brunner does in this novel. The story is told from the perspective of a world of intelligent aliens as they reach out to discover the universe in which they live. They have to do that in ways that are very different from our own history in details (for example, they live under water where access to the night sky is limited, which puts ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 1st 1983 by Ballantine Books (first published 1983)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,034 ratings  ·  65 reviews

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Jul 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Richard by: HardSF Group
Okay, I finally finished this — but, frankly, I'm not sure it was worth the time spent. Oh, don't get me wrong: this was interesting enough to warrant four stars. But in some way, it was still a chore to read.

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

But he ha
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This is one heck of an ambitious book, charting the history of an entire planetary civilisation, from the discovery of metal-working up to their first spaceflight, and without a single Human in sight.

Each section of the book is a snapshot into the (never named) world of 'the folk', the first following the invention of the first telescope and the beginnings of astronomy, and then the discovery that their solar system is heading right into a crowded area of space, where collisions or disturbances
Aug 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
For my personal taste in reading enjoyment, I might give it a bit more than 3 stars.

I'm torn. This is what they call an "ambitious novel". It portrays a non-human alien race as the only characters. Their planet is in a star system traveling thru the galaxy - causing them to experience passage thru dust clouds, radiation, meteors, etc. The book is a series of episodes in their civilization's history from something like the Bronze Age to the first space flight. It shows how superstition and myth t
Shira and Ari Evergreen
Mar 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Shira and Ari by: lea
This book is about a people on a planet - how their cultures and bodies evolve, how their ideas change, how they somehow move through time, averting disaster again and again. They're different from us, ingeniously so, but they're also very similar. So much so, that if kids read this in high school, it would probably be a good thing for the world. It may be a fictional story starring liquid-filled bug people, but there's more to it than that - it's very instructive to read and ponder it, and to t ...more
David Agranoff
This is an almost surreal bizarro science fiction novel. I read it many years ago, it is not for the casual Sci-fi readers. Written from the point of view of a Alien species that developed under the ocean of their planet. If you hate Sci-fi novel that have alien liefforms that are too much like humans this is a great one to read.
Erik Graff
Sep 10, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Brunner fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
Brunner tends, in my experience, to be a realist in his science fiction. My favorite novels, Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up, are both social prognostications which, at the time of their composition, appeared quite relevant.

This, too, is a realist novel in the broader sense of maintaining the conventions of the prevailing scientific faith. As such, it is very much in the tradition of Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke. The presumption is that there is a single, common cosmos out there abou
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
Having some trouble getting into this book so far. It jumps right into the story without any setup so I'm trying to figure out the "rules" of this world and it's peoples. Having trouble visualizing the characters - they have mandibles, but reproduce by budding - so a cross between a tree and an insect? Hmm hopefully this will be cleared up.

Never really got a clear reading on what these aliens look like. The history of their peoples was slightly interesting. But as far the story goes it was hard
Jun 18, 2012 rated it liked it
This book was very well executed -- the passage of intelligent life through the process of civilization; discoveries, inventions, the slow shift from superstition and magic to science and exploration. I did get bogged down for a while trying to visualize the main characters and the environments that they lived in. The novel jumps forward through the timeline similar to Asimov's Foundation stories, so although the characters change in each section, there remains some continuity. I'm not a huge fa ...more
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wonderful sci-fi! Follows the entire development of a culture, religions, and science on an alien world as they evolve. Each chapter is a few thousand years after the previous, so it's not a character-based book. It's an idea book. Fun to read, which gets it three stars. It made me go out and look at the night sky differently. That got it four. ...more
Michael Brady
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
John Brunner creates a skillfully wrought, fully realized world, full of sentient creatures we resemble in all the important and embarrassing ways even though we look nothing alike. Well worth your time. Quite the prize find from the $1 rack at Half Price books.
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful saga of a very alien world.
Albin Louit
Jul 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf
A very moving novel from Brunner who describes the fate of another specie, figthing against time for its survival
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this quite a long time ago (when it was new, actually). I'll always remember it for the marvelously different alien culture. Opened my eyes in many ways. ...more
John Brunner is best known for his meticulously researched near-future dystopias like Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up. This isn't like that; it's a millenia spanning epic about jellyfish-lobster-crayfish things battling natural disasters caused by meteors and radar flares and such like... but it's also recognisably Brunner in it's rigorous exploration of an imagined world. Like The Squares of the City over-commitment to the central conceit (here that all civilisations rise to a height be ...more
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
review of
John Brunner's The Crucible of Time
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 26, 2017

I've already thoroughly praised Brunner in many other reviews but I had the vague feeling that I might've exhausted my praise for him insofar as I thought that anything I might read new by him wdn't surprise me. I was wrong. The Crucible of Time surprised me, it was significantly different from anything I'd already read by him & satisfyingly epic.

The Foreword establishes what I assume to've been the
Stories with aliens always bear something artificial, as if the author really looked for a manner to tell something, whatever it is. In a way, we could say that all the authors choose a manner to tell anything - after all, since the collapse of neoclassicism, art unlinked itself from representation. There's no reason why it should go the same with litterature.

The Crucible of Time proposes a reflexion about long span, an idea coined by the French historian Fernand Braudel. That is, slow - and obv
Althea Ann
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
An epic sci-fi novel about the progression of history and culture on
an alien planet peopled by an insect-like sentient race.
The 'novel' is really six separate stories, each dealing with a
momentous point in their history. It follows the race from a primitive
society to a spacefaring people who desperately need to escape from
the asteroid belt that threatens their planet. In each story, a
brilliant young person with groundbreaking ideas must fight to take a
cultural step forward.
Although the book's no
Oct 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Brunner extrapolates from current events in many of his books, and this one is especially topical. Discussing climate change in our world right now is fraught with established political stresses and not much is said that is outside the talking points. In this novel (published presciently in 1983, two decades before "An Inconvenient Truth") Brunner takes the reader through thousands of generations of an intelligent species at risk because of global changes. In this case, it's got to do with galax ...more
Nelson Minar
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very compelling read. I like the basic theme of the inevitable march of scientific progress, the struggle of visionaries against circumstance and ignorant people. It's a good story, a race doomed to extinction by the bad luck of their planet being in the path of meteors. The repetition of events through different generations got a bit much, I think the book could have been 20% shorter without losing anything. But as a nice allegory to humans sticking their head in their sand about environmental ...more
Thomas Hayes
Dec 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. Yes, it is hard to read and the author never really describes the main species, "the folk", enough for you to easily associate with them. There are reviews that there are no emotional connections. I say this is a book that demands you focus, go back sometimes and read sections again, and allow yourself to step outside of your concepts of consciousness and technology. If you commit to it you will be rewarded with a rich, emotional story spanning many eras that explores the huma ...more
Jun 15, 2014 added it
Shelves: walk-away
Nope. How much do I care about the main characters? Exactly nope.

I usually give myself at least 50 pages or a quarter of the book to decide if I really want to bail. It was a struggle to push myself even that far here. I was willing to be dropped in media res with zero exposition, up until I realized I was totally unimpressed with the quality of the writing itself and completely indifferent to the characters and their situation.
Jul 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: own
I had really high hopes for this book, but it fell way short. It was just boring to me. The book is about an alien race and it follows their evolution from a primitive culture to a spacefaring race. It is essentially a series of short stories, each from a different time period. I didn't feel like each story was advancing a single narrative throughout the book. It just felt like it was another story about this alien race. I didn't care about the characters and it was just a tough read. ...more
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: SF fans who are tired of the same old "aliens"
Shelves: front
Most SF writers write about aliens as if in fact they were merely aliens from another country right here on earth. Not much originality, eh? Well here's the exception to that rule! This book presents what in my experience is the most original and well thought out portrayal of a truly alien intelligence. ...more
Micah Waldstein
Apr 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Pretty enjoyable - a really interesting look at the evolution of a non-human civilization. Ends up feeling a lot like the Foundation series in its episodic/multi generational examination of turning points. Initially, it feels forced particularly in giving the species a radically different biology, but by the time you're a quarter of the way in, it fades into the background. ...more
Edwin Downward
Mar 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found the opening section hard to read and came close to putting the book aside as unreadable, but noting this appears to be a kind of anthology of linked stories I gave it until section two to keep my attention. It delivered, and that kept me going through the ups and downs each subsequence section presented me with.
Sep 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tanya by: Lee
This story gets you thinking, about extraterrestrial life and evolution, and unlike any story I've read before, it covers a time span of many millions of years. I enjoyed it and would definitely read it again. For some reason, it got me thinking of the Riverworld series by PJF, so it was on to that next. ...more
Aug 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. A fantastic story of a completely alien species struggles through ages. There is not a single human voice in this classic.
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read a long time ago (30 years, I think), but I still remember scenes from it. I really liked it at the time.
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is one of the last great triumphant-rise-of-human-progress novels where, in spite of all kinds of natural disasters, the inhabitants of a planet drag themselves through thousands of years of scientific development in order to escape their doomed planet (about this time, science fiction became darker and more dystopian, as indeed, most of Brunner’s other novels are). What makes this novel stand out from a rather dull subgenre is that the characters are not human at all, but are some kind of ...more
Brent Byron
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a story told from the perspective of an alien race on an unknown planet. Their bodies are not like ours, but many of their struggles are. The aliens have no bones or exoskeletons like many creatures known on Earth. They rely on pressure to hold themselves upright and have tubules full of ichor instead of blood.
The story follows key points in the alien race's history and how these events lead them to a single-minded goal to reach space and save their species. I must correct something that
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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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