His space mercenary brother arrives in a spaceship and tells him their oldest brother, the Warden, has been killed and replaced by an usurper who controls the population of Asconel. Their brother had taken up the company of a powerful psychic and she betrayed him to the usurper.
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The brothers set off to win back Asconel. First they go looking for the remaining brother on an Empire outpost planet called Delcadore that is nearby. They find their brother but the are also forced mental compulsion by the government on this planet to take a psychic into exile. In this book the Empire exiles mutants and psychics to the rim worlds.
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After convincing the psychic that they mean her no harm, she finds a way to break their compulsion and it is on wards to Asconel. I will not spoil the rest of the plot. In the book the attitudes towards mutants and psychics is examined. The Squares of the City is a respectable try at a Chess novel in which a chosen venue in this case a city serves as the board and two of the characters are players while others are the various pieces. The stiffness of the resulting story may have been inevitable, especially since Brunner was playing out in his fiction a well-known master game.
Brunner's magnum opus of the s, Stand on Zanzibar , perhaps the longest Genre-SF novel to that date, came as the climax of the decade. The Dystopian vision of this complex novel, much of which is set in an exemplary New York , rests on the assumption that Earth's population will continue to expand uncontrollably see Overpopulation.
The intersecting stories of two New Yorkers — Norman House, a black executive on a mission to the Third World to facilitate further economic penetration, and Donald Hogan, a White "synthesist" and government agent, whose mission involves gaining control of a Eugenics discovery — provide dominant strands in an assemblage of narrative techniques whose function of providing a social and cultural context see Infodump points up their resemblance to similar Modernist techniques used by John Dos Passos in USA 3vols , but which as John P Brennan has noted fail to conceal the underlying storytelling orthodoxy of the tale.
It is perhaps for this reason that the resulting vision has a cumulative, sometimes overpowering effect, while at the same time the meliorist logic of its pulp plotting which descends from Homer urgently conveys a sense that answers will be forthcoming, and that the protagonists will win through the story they are living. Through its density of reference, and through Brunner's admirable though sometimes insecure grasp of US idiom, the book's anti-Americanism has a satisfyingly American ring to it, so that its tirades do not seem smug; it won the Hugo and the BSFA Award , and its French translation won the Prix Apollo see Awards in Three further novels, all with some of the same pace and intensity, make together a kind of thematic series of Dystopias.
The Jagged Orbit conflates medical and military industrial complexes with the Mafia in a rather too tightly plotted, though occasionally powerful, narrative which also addresses issues of race. The Sheep Look Up , perhaps the most unrelenting and convincing dystopia of the four, and depressingly well documented, deals scarifyingly with Pollution in a plot whose relative looseness allows for an almost essayist exposition of the horrors in store for us.
Unsurprisingly with hindsight , though these novels received considerable critical attention, they in no way made Brunner's fortune. He was always extremely open about his finances and his hopes for the future, and made no secret of the let-down he felt on discovering himself, after these culminating efforts, still in the position of being forced to produce commercially to survive. This naivete was humanly touching, but fatal to his career.
For some years before his death his health was uncertain, which coinciding with his disillusion caused a severe slowing down of his once formidable writing speed. In his decreasingly frequent publications since , Brunner tended to return to a somewhat more flamboyant, ironized version of the space-opera idiom he had used earlier, and the relative lack of fluency and enthusiasm of novels like Total Eclipse and Children of the Thunder cannot easily be denied.
There is a sense in these novels that skill warred with convictions, and that, as a consequence, Brunner could not any longer allow himself the orthodox delights of pure storytelling. He died before the renaissance in Space Opera began to shape British publishing in the s, though the first novels of Iain M Banks had already proclaimed that something new was in the offing; but there are few signs he would have felt comfortable with the free-flowing exuberance of the reinvented mode, which he may have thought ultimately irresponsible.
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The Altar at Asconel
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