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Reviews in Project: Shockwave Reader (5)

Sky Full of Stars

The World Swappers

By John Brunner  

28 Feb, 2023

Shockwave Reader


John Brunner’s 1959 The World Swappers is a first-contact science fiction novel.

Four centuries earlier, bold visionaries embraced the promise of the stars. Hundreds of thousands left Earth to whatever dismal fate awaited them. They found thirty-one known habitable worlds within two hundred parsecs of Earth. The colonists had different notions of the utopias to which they aspired, but all of them found difficulty in achieving them.

Meanwhile, Earth did not descend into the over-populated, poverty-stricken hellhole predicted by doomsayers. Twenty-sixth century Earth is rich and lazy. However, the end of the golden age is in sight, unless adjustments are made in interstellar relations, adjustments that would allow emigration to restart.

Top oligarch Bassett is that confident he alone has the vision and the resources needed to restart and manage emigration. Shadowy cabal leader Uncredited social activist Saïd Counce knows that Bassett’s schemes are doomed. Were that not serious enough, Counce knows that the alien Others are about to stumble across humanity.

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How I Wonder What You Are

Catch a Falling Star

By John Brunner  

27 Dec, 2022

Shockwave Reader


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.

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Sitting There in Your Head

The Best of John Brunner

By John Brunner  

20 Oct, 2022

Shockwave Reader


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.

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