James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Contributor

Reviews by Contributor: Brunner, John (13)

How I Wonder What You Are

Catch a Falling Star

By John Brunner  

27 Dec, 2022

Shockwave Reader

4 comments

John Brunner’s 1968 Catch a Falling Star is a substantial rewrite of his 1959 The 100th Millennium, which in turn is an expanded version of the 1958 novella Earth Is But a Star.

One hundred thousand years from now, a community of humans lives in what past eras would call utopia. Each person has their own living house that provides them with life’s necessities and each is free to pursue whatever pastime amuses them. Creohan, for example, is an astronomer, devoting his life to studying the stars.

As a consequence of a hundred thousand years of history, novelty is rare. Whatever a person might consider doing has been done a thousand times before. But … thanks to historical data provided to him by a Historicker friend, Creohan succeeds connecting dots no other person has connected:

A rogue star is headed directly for the Solar System. Earth and everything on it are doomed.

Read more ➤

Sitting There in Your Head

The Best of John Brunner

By John Brunner  

20 Oct, 2022

Shockwave Reader

12 comments

1988’s The Best of John Brunner is a late entry (possibly the final entry) in Ballantine’s Classic Library of Science Fiction. It is exactly what one would expect from the title: a selection of short works the editor deemed Brunner’s best. The Best of John Brunner is the first of what I hope will be my long-running monthly survey of Brunner’s fiction. 

Sure hope I come up with a name for the series by Thursday.

Read more ➤

Holly Jolly Christmas

The Sheep Look Up

By John Brunner  

19 Dec, 2021

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

9 comments

John Brunner’s 1972 The Sheep Look Up is a stand-alone near-future science fiction novel. It is also one of a series of novels by Brunner that dramatize extrapolations of big issues of the era in which he was writing: The Jagged Orbit (racial violence), Stand on Zanzibar (overpopulation), and The Shockwave Rider (future shock). The Sheep Look Ups central focus is environmental degradation. 

1980s America in particular and the world in general have made enormous strides in reshaping the world to facilitate unbounded profit. The air is poisoned, such water as can be had is filthy, entire seas are lifeless, and children across the nation suffer life-altering disabilities due their exposure to toxic chemicals. In a word: capitalist utopia! 


Read more ➤

Lost in the Fog

The Infinitive of Go

By John Brunner  

21 Mar, 2021

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

10 comments

John Brunner’s 1980’s The Infinitive of Go is a standalone science fiction novel. 

Cold War paranoia provided the funds to finance Justin Williams and Cinnamon Wright’s revolutionary teleporter. The poster,” as the device is innocuously dubbed, seems to work perfectly. Preliminary tests show that inanimate and animate payloads arrive intact. 

The first long-range human test seems to have gone perfectly until courier George Gunther demands a countersign. Since no such countersign had been arranged, it cannot be given. Gunther immediately kills himself while destroying the documents he was conveying.

Something has clearly gone wrong, but what?

Read more ➤

As Dreamers Do

The Traveler in Black

By John Brunner  

11 Aug, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

1 comment


John Brunner’s 1971 fantasy collection The Traveler in Black was the first book published as an Ace Science Fiction Special. It has since been republished under several titles and with varying contents; nevertheless, like its protagonist, we can say that it has but one nature. 

He had many names, but one nature, and this unique nature made him subject to certain laws not binding upon ordinary persons. In a compensatory fashion, he was also free from certain other laws more commonly in force. 


Read more ➤

For an ugly week

The Jagged Orbit

By John Brunner  

19 Jun, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

0 comments

1969’s The Jagged Orbit is the second novel in John Brunner’s dystopian quartet. This is not my favourite of the four books, but (when I chose it) it seemed thematically appropriate for this ugly week. Where Stand on Zanzibar was about the consequences of population growth, The Sheep Look Up about unchecked pollution, and The Shockwave Rider about Future Shock, The Jagged Orbit concerns itself with racial divisions, paranoia, and violence dialed up to eleven.

Read more ➤

In the heart of the Nebula

The Crucible of Time

By John Brunner  

12 Jan, 2016

Special Requests

0 comments

John Brunner’s 1983 The Crucible of Time is a fine example of science fiction inspired by the science of the time. As Brunner explains in his foreword 

It is becoming more and more widely accepted that Ice Ages coincide with the passage of the Solar System through the spiral arms of our galaxy. It therefore occurred to me to wonder what would become of a species that had evolved intelligence just before their planet’s transit of a gas cloud far denser than the one in Orion which the Earth has recently — in cosmic terms — traversed. 

I will leave it to my commentariat to discuss to what degree the above represents current scientific consensus. The basic idea, that an inhabited world has the misfortune to traverse a region like this, 


is certainly enough of a hook from which to hang an SF novel. 

In this case, a highly episodic novel. Really, more a collection of linked novellas. 


Read more ➤