Disassemble, consume, and relish (4/5)
From May 12, 2011
Rear cover synopsis:
"This is a giant of a book, in many senses of the word. It had to be, to give elbow-room for its subject matter. There are seven billion-plus of our species crowding the surface of the twenty-first century Earth in an age of acceleratubes, Moonbase Zero, intelligent computers, mass marketed psycheddelics, politics by assassination, scientists who burn incense to appease volcanoes--hive-living hysteria that is reaching its bursting point all over the world. But a hive seldom knows about its madness until it's too late. Employing a dazzling range of literary techniques, John Brunner has created a future world as real as this morning's paper--moving, sensory, impressionistic, as jagged as the times it portrays. This book is a real mind-stretcher--yet beautifully orchestrated to give a vivid picture of the whole. Read it with care--move in with it--this may be where we're headed..."
Divvied up into four parts, each gives the reader a glimpse into the world Brunner has created:
meat of the novel lays in "Continuity" where the two plot lines of
Norman (headed for Beninia to establish a new economy) and Donald
(headed to Yatagang under subterfuge) start as one and eventually split
into the two said strands. Beginning as roommates, we're introduced to
the lifestyles of their generation, the living conditions, the language,
etc. This alone provides a detailed picture of the year 2010 where
earth is being over-populated.
The second most important of the
quartet is "Tracking with Close-ups" where the reader can catch glimpses
of everyday life for a smattering of humans on earth: witness their
decadence, see their plights and perils, come to understand the one drop
in the ocean of flesh. These slices of life are more like short stories
based in the Zanzibar world, each as minor as the next but like a
flood, the torrent is composed of many small water droplets.
less interesting aspect of Zanizbar is the inclusion of "Context" which
highlights social troubles via the written works or spoken word of an
author in the novel by the name of Mulligan (or sometime snippets of
other conversations, songs and such fluff). Sometimes insightful,
usually wordy and preachy but the best bits lay in "Hipcrime Vocab"
where Brunner shows his mastery of wit and language akin to a modern-day Devil's Dictionary... all interesting, but
not essential to the 650-page novel.
Lastly, there comes "The
Happening World" where the novel should NOT have started the novel and
which, really, added nothing at all to the overall picture. It's like
stream-of-consciousness writing with no connectivity, no basis, no
logic. No, thank you.
Even if I hate a book, I still read it
cover-to-cover. But with Zanzibar, I found myself skipping much of the peripheral "Context" bits and nearly all of the obscure "Happening" sections. These two
lines of page additions distracted me from the greater whole of the core
plot: that of Donald and Norman in the context of an over-populated
world and where one man, especially a changed man, can make a difference
and how science, too, can push society one way (to greatness) or the
other (off the cliff).
Zanzibar is a definite re-read but next
time around I'll have that knowledge brace of knowing which chapters to
skip and which chapters to focus on.