Science Fiction Though the Decades

Monday, January 30, 2012

1974: Give Warning to the World (Brunner, John)

The cover is warning enough- Stay Clear! (2/5)
From June 10, 2011

Written in 1974 (the same year as his excellent Total Eclipse) near the end of Brunner's prime, I just couldn't pass up one of his novels even if it had a terrible cover displayed here . Tragically, this novel only had a single edition published by DAW (#112) way back in 1974. This is rather tragic because it follows in the footsteps of another Brunner tragedy entitled The Wrong End of Time (1971), also by DAW (#61). Those footsteps include the scathing 2-star rating... rare for a Brunner novel.

Across the street from slum housing, a police stakeout is watching the habits of the red-headed landlady who is suspected of 'serving' males in Soho district with whips and leather. The house she inhabits is home to a elderly lady in the upstairs and Clyde, a Jamaican actor struck with curiosity about the treatment of the young lady next door to him- Sally. Previous tenants have been disappearing and the police are also onto this but they are unable to connect the landlady/dominatrix to the mystery.

When inventor and deep-thinker Nick is driving down the road, the same beautiful but strange lady bursts into his car seemingly involved in a hallucination. She is taken away by her landlord who then locks her in her room. Though she is dirty and depraved of nutrition, she is continually injected with drugs to keep her sedated and confused. Nick discusses the incident with his doctor friend Tom.

Eventually, all the characters meet each other through one way or another, which stinks of luckiness and coincidence, which, again follows in the footsteps of The Wrong End of Time. It's an unbelievable unfolding of coincidence and the follow through of poor choices borders on agonizing. I was nearly yelling at the Nick 'Go to the police!' and 'Stop drawing grand conclusions to specific degrees!' and yelling to Brunner 'Get on with it!' So, yea, it's bit torturous to say the least. It reads like a run-of-the-mill police mystery/heroic savior type of fiction... but then (there's always a 'but then!' in these types of pulp novels) there's a science fiction twist at the last third when it's revealed the planet Earth is in danger. This screams of B-grade sci-fi film quality! It's pathetic for a Brunner novel.

An almost redeemable aspect of Give Warning to the World is the fifteen pages (10% of the novel) where we learn the entire history of the aliens at hand by the monologue of one character (I hate when this happens). The invention of the alien Yem by Brunner is pretty enticing but the novel's plot just has a terrible flow. I really wish he could have re-written the Yem into a more astute novel. Period.

I knew it was gonna be a stinker, but as a Brunner completest I HAD to read it. Now that I'm down with it, it will go the same way as The Wrong of Time- to the dusty shelves of the second-hand book store where many curious souls will eventually lay eyes on the cover and slip it right back onto the shelf. The cover is warning enough to the world to stay clear of the contents within.


  1. Wait, you read The Wrong of Time as well? I call it the wrong end of a diseased cow... hehe

    1. We're the only two people to review it on Amazon... both of us giving that hunk of junk a measly two stars. It didn't get one star because it didn't make me angry, didn't make me check myself by placing the book down and kindly swearing at it, didn't chuck it across the room -- those are my standards! haha!