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The Sheep Look Up Paperback – June 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"A complex tragic masterpiece. John Brunner is the Rachel Carson of science fiction." -- Ian Watson

"Gripping on both an emotional and intellectual level" -- Booklist

"The best Brunner novel I've yet read . . . staggeringly controlled and dramatic.a work of art!" -- James Blish

"[This book] is, in my opinion and for all kinds of reasons, unquestionably the best SF novel ever written." -- John Grant, Joint Editor, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy

About the Author

John Brunner was the author of dozens of science fiction novels, including Shockwave Rider and Stand on Zanzibar, winner of the Hugo Award.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: BenBella Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (June 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932100016
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932100013
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #656,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Michael Battaglia on March 9, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Publishers have shown some intelligence by keeping both Stand on Zanzibar and The Shockwave Rider still in print but still show odd lapses of judgement by keeping this book relegated to used book stores instead of reissuing it for all to read. This is definitely better than Shockwave Rider, and more focused than Zanzibar (though not better). It is probably one of the grimmer books to emerge from any genre, I thought On the Beach was depressing, this is even more so. Brunner takes threads and weaves them together to show you a world where the ecology is falling apart, the people who have the money to fix it also have the money to keep themselves above it while the normal people just live with it and can't think that anything will be better. There is a plot, per se, involved with environmental leader Austin Train and his emergence from hiding but mostly the novel is concerned with showing the slow inexorable decline of the world into a polluted and chaotic mess. If you keep reading it looking for some last minute save, some ray of hope, you might as well stop reading because that isn't the point. Brunner isn't showing us how to get out of it (other than an ironic comment made by a character at the very end) but showing us what he thought would happen if we didn't change things. Giving it a specific date dilutes the impact of the book but his message is still as strong as ever and even though we've taken steps to prevent that future, there's still a way to go. Brunner isn't with us anymore and his voice is surely missed, moreso when we read about an oil spill or a forest being cut down for development. Reading his books keeps that voice alive today.
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138 of 169 people found the following review helpful By RootlessAgrarian on July 8, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Many people nowadays look back on the brief burst of environmental awareness (alarm) and criticism of corporate power which occurred in the 1970's as quaint,naive, slightly ridiculous. One prior reviewer of this work refers to the "hysteria" of the period.
What strikes me most strongly about _The Sheep Look Up_, billed as a 'sequel' to his big hit _Stand on Zanzibar_, is not its quaintness but its frightening accuracy. While Brunner guessed wrong on a number of counts -- for example, we haven't *quite* killed all the whales yet! -- there were trends which he read astutely and forecast correctly.
In particular he forecast increasing solipsism and isolationism in American politics and cultural life; he predicted a decline in the quality of political life, to the point where the American presidency would be occupied by a semi-literate figurehead whose job is to recite comforting and irrelevant platitudes into a microphone on his way from one glamorous gig to the next. His "Prexy" character seemed like a good fit for Reagan a while back, but the current Bush (the 2nd of that name) is an even closer match.
Brunner forecast the dumbing down of media, the intrusion of advertising into the most intimate spaces of daily life. He forecast the sidelining of "healthy lifestyle" products and choices into a yuppie trend (organic food becoming a boutique item) and the demonisation of environmentalists as "terrorists" and criminals. He forecast a degradation of community life, the rise of private security forces, and an increasing gap between (very) rich and (powerless) poor people.
He forecast the multiplication of resistant strains of pathogens, though he did not specifically call out the abuse of antibiotics in agriculture as a prime cause.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Frank Rizzo on March 26, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Be patient with this novel. In the begining you are inundated with new charecters and sublots every few pages. It reminds me of watching news coverage during some kind of widespread disaster. The network cycles through 10-15 different locations involving different perspectives and personalities in a very short time. You only glean enough information to realize that the situation is FUBAR; you can never fully relate to any one particular situation or its' human element. You don't empathize with the people in this novel for that reason. I found myself not wanting to invest any more time in this book; there isn't a single character you root for. I am glad I trudged through. The final third of the story is quite good. You've become familiar with the cast and Brunner moves seamlessly from one event to the next.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on April 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
This classic from John Brunner is a fascinating and terrifying vision of a dysfunctional future in which the worst flaws of modern behavior lead to disastrous results for humanity. Dealing with environmental degradation, the book is surely a fractured masterpiece of human misery and social dementia. There are a few problems with the believability of this book though. Brunner's future is awkwardly projected directly from the Cold War and civil rights struggles of the late 60s, making much of this book's background action quite seem quite dated. Brunner's environmental catastrophes are frighteningly possible if current trends continue to their logical extreme. But the worldwide burning rivers, dead oceans, and poison smog would take centuries to develop and appear rather hysterical in hindsight, as Brunner envisioned these things happening a mere decade after the time he wrote the book. And one fundamental plotting problem here concerns the success of mysterious hero Austin Train in getting many millions of people behind his budding anti-corporate revolution. Brunner implies that Train operates only on charisma and the obvious truth of his message. It is hard to imagine this happening in the real world, regardless of how correct or compelling a revolutionary's message truly is. Brunner also has the tendency to kill off his characters just when they start to get interesting.

But with those problems aside, Brunner still lays out an absolutely brilliant analysis of how American society would deteriorate in the face of an obvious disaster, no matter how farfetched that disaster may be. Those in the political and economic elite will stack the deck in their favor, continuing their lives of comfort while regular people are left to fend for themselves.
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