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The Sheep Look Up Paperback – June 1, 2003
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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"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
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Further, his portrayal of a world ravaged by the wastes and by-products, though still quite pertinent, are adorably anachronistic. One of the main characters drives an electric car which, she remembers comfortably, produced only water and carbon dioxide!
Brunner also took past concerns about over population and ran with it. While there are still some holdouts who believe that third world countries suffer starvation due to their birth rate and not politics, ignoring the facts that warlords requisition relief provisions for their own use - not to mention that we live in a country where there are "cookie bars" and diet food for dogs - the worry that if Americans have more than 2.5 children we are all going to die has itself died down greatly since this book was written.
Yet he was dot on in many other areas. He foresaw the concept of large supermarkets selling organic food well ahead of its time. (And I hope he's wrong about his prediction of unscrupulous companies altering produce so as to give it the appearance of having been nibbled on by little critters!)
He was also prescient when he portrayed the President of the United States as a celebrity refusing to take social problems seriously. For a writer who didn't live in the age of Twitter or "sound bites" it is uncanny how he captures their essence so completely.
I don't want to totally spoil the book, but he amazes me further in the way he illustrates future dystopian sexist and violent culture and music. How could someone who wrote nearly half a century before hard metal and "gangsta rap" envision entertainment so similar in some ways?
So, young readers, you who cannot understand old cartoons from the New Yorker about the Cold War or do not know anything about Southeast Asia, be patient with this out-if-date Classic. Even without Brunner's prophetic bulls eyes, this is still one of the best dystopian novels ever written.
If you're looking for a bleak and depressing story about the dangers of human nature and what we're doing to the environment, The Sheep Look Up is fantastic. Just be prepared to tackle the book with a lot of patience.
Another downside: The Kindle edition contains a significant amount of transcription errors, such as incorrect/missing punctuation in some chapters. I hope the physical editions of this book are better-made.
Would recommend this to fans of dystopian fiction, especially because it's a unique take. The Sheep Look Up doesn't have the overbearing government of 1984, the blatant censorship of Fahrenheit 451, the issues of The Handmaid's Tale, or the flawed yet pristine setting of Brave New World.
There are times when he goes into long speeches that seem unlikely to be delivered in the context of the book, but it is fascinating to read him describing a frightening dystopian look at life today. He had a few misses, but most of his predictions are right on, at least in incidents if not in number. Thankfully we are not as bad as he describes it—yet.