John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar (Book acquired, 28 Aug. 2020)

I usually allow myself to peruse my favorite used bookstore every other Friday, poking around for weird finds and etc. I had no luck this week—nothing like a Vintage Contemporaries Barry Hannah—but they did have a copy of John Brunner’s 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar, which I’d been searching (not-too-hard) for for a few years now. The thing is much longer than I expected (I knew it was long…but it’s long…650 pages). Not sure when I’ll even get to it. It’s supposed to be a cult classic right? Here’s the blurb from my edition:

There are seven billion-plus humans crowding the surface of 21st century Earth. It is an age of intelligent computers, mass-market psychedelic drugs, politics conducted by assassination, scientists who burn incense to appease volcanoes … all the hysteria of a dangerously overcrowded world, portrayed in a dazzlingly inventive style. Employing a dazzling range of literary techniques, John Brunner has created a future world as real as this morning’s newspaper – moving, sensory, impressionistic, as jagged as the times it portrays, this book is a real mind stretcher – and yet beautifully orchestrated to give a vivid picture of the whole.

And here’s an excerpt, via Macmillan’s site:

context (1)


Stock cue SOUND: “Presenting SCANALYZER, Engrelay Satelserv’s unique thrice-per-day study of the big big scene, the INdepth INdependent INmediate INterface between you and your world!”
Stock cue VISUAL: cliptage, splitscreen, cut in bridge-melder, Mr. & Mrs. Everywhere depthunder (today MAMP, Mid-Atlantic Mining Project), spaceover (today freefly-suiting), transiting (today Simplon Acceleratube), digging (today as every day homimage with autoshout).
Stock cue VISUAL: cliptage, wholescreen, planet Earth turning jerk-jerk-jerk and holding meridians for GMT, EST, PCT, Pacific Conflict Zone Time.
Live cue SOUND: “And it’s six poppa-momma for the happening people keeping it straight and steady on that old Greenwich Mean Time—how mean can time get, you tell me, hm? Zee for zero, bee for base, counting down to one after ess ee eks—sorree—ess EYE eks! We know what’s happening happening HAPPENING but that piece of the big big scene is strictly up to you, Mr. and Mrs. Everywhere—or Mr. and Miss, or Miss and Miss, or Mister and Mister, take your pick, hah-hah! Counting down to one after one poppa-momma for that good old Eastern Standard tie-yum, one after ten anti-matter for the Pacific Coast, and for all of you fighting the good fight in lonely midocean one after seven anti-matter—PIPS!”
Clock cue: 5 × 1-sec. countdown pips on G in alt, minute signal on C in alt.
Plug cue: “No time like the present for things to happen in, no better way to keep time straight and steady than by the signal from General Technics’ critonium clock, so accuright it serves to judge the stars.”
Script cue VISUAL: cliptage, splitscreen, excerpts from day’s news.
Live cue SOUND: “And no better way to keep abreast—pardon—than with SCANALYZER!”
Cut autoshout cue. (If they haven’t made it by this time they’ve switched off.)
Plug cue: “SCANALYZER is the one single, the ONLY study of the news in depth that’s processed by General Technics’ famed computer Shalmaneser, who sees all, hears all, knows all save only that which YOU, Mr. and Mrs. Everywhere, wish to keep to yourselves.”
Script cue: the happening world.
the happening world (1)

For toDAY third of MAY twenty-TEN ManhatTEN reports mild spring-type weather under the Fuller Dome. Ditto on the General Technics Plaza.
But Shalmaneser is a Micryogenic® computer bathed in liquid helium and it’s cold in his vault.
(DITTO Use it! The mental process involved is exactly analogous to the bandwidth-saving technique employed for your phone. If you’ve seen the scene you’ve seen the scene and there’s too much new information for you to waste time looking it over more than once. Use “ditto”. Use it!—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
Less of a machine, more of a human being, but partaking of the nature of both, Georgette Tallon Buckfast is largely supported by prosthetics in her ninety-first year.
When the strain becomes TOO MUCH it’s because Hitrip of California bred it to have less stalk per ounce, more clean-queen leaf. Ask “The Man who’s Married to Mary Jane”!
Eric Ellerman is a plant geneticist with three daughters who’s scared because his wife has developed a permanent pot-belly.
“… and Puerto Rico today became the latest state to ratify the controversial dichromatism provision of United States eugenic legislation. This leaves only two havens for those who wish to bear disadvantaged children: Nevada and Louisiana. The defeat of the baby-farming lobby removes a long-time stigma from the fair brow of the Junior-but-One State—a congenital stigma, one may say, since the J-but-O State’s accession to hoodness coincided almost to the day with the first eugenic legislation concerned with haemophilia, phenylketonuria and congenital imbecility…”
Poppy Shelton has believed in miracles for years, but now there’s one happening right inside her body and the real world is leaning on her dreams.
Norman Niblock House is junior VP in charge of personnel and recruitment at General Technics.
“One fraction of a second, please—participant breakin coming up. Remember that only SCANALYZER’s participant breakin service is processed by General Technics’ Shalmaneser, the more correct response in the shorter quantum of time…”
Guinevere Steel’s real name is Dwiggins, but do you blame her?
Do your slax sufficiently convey your natural power—at a glance?
If you’re wearing MasQ-Lines, the answer’s yes. Tired of half measures, we at MasQ-Line Corp. have put the codpiece back where it belongs, to say to the shiggies not kidder but codder.
Sheena and Frank Potter are all packed ready to leave for Puerto Rico because a green and a red light are just lights to him.
Two participant breakins! Number one: sorree, friend, but no—we are not wrong to say Puerto Rico’s decision leaves a mere two havens for the dissident. Isola does enjoy statehood, but the whole area of the Pacific its islands occupy is under martial law and you don’t get a pass for other than martial reasons. Thanks for asking us, though, it’s the way of the world, you’re my environment and I am yours, which is why we operate SCANALYZER as a two-way process…”
Arthur Golightly doesn’t mind not being able to remember where he put things. Looking for them, he always finds other things he’d forgotten he had.
Donald Hogan is a spy.
“Number the other: dichromatism is what’s commonly called colourblindness, and it is sure as sidereal time a congenital disability. Thank you, participant, thank you.”
Stal (short for Stallion) Lucas is a yonderboy, weighed, measured, and freeflying all the way.
(IMPOSSIBLE Means: 1 I wouldn’t like it and when it happens I won’t approve; 2 I can’t be bothered; 3 God can’t be bothered. Meaning 3 may perhaps be valid but the others are 101% whaledreck.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
Philip Peterson is twenty years old.
Are you undermined by an old-style autoshout unit, one that needs constant reprogramming by hand if it’s not to call you for items that were descheduled last week?
GT’s revolutionary new autoshout reprograms itself!
Sasha Peterson is Philip’s mother.
“Turning to a related subject, rioting crowds today stormed a Right Catholic church in Malmö, Sweden, while early mass was in progress. Casualty lists suggest a death toll of over forty including the priest and many children. From his palace in Madrid Pope Eglantine accused rival Pope Thomas of deliberately fomenting this and other recent uprisings, a charge vigorously denied by Vatican authorities.”
Victor and Mary Whatmough were born in the same country and have been married twenty years—she for the second time, he for the third.
What you want to do when you see her in her Forlon&Morler Maxess costumelet
Is what she wants you to do when you see her in her Forlon&Morler Maxess costumelet
If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have put it on
Maximal access is no exaggeration when you spell it MAXESS
Style illustrated is “Courtesan”
But you should see “Tart”
What there is of it
Elihu Masters is currently United States Ambassador to the one-time British colony of Beninia.
“Speaking of accusations, Dixierep Senator Lowell Kyte this anti-matter charged that dicties were now responsible for nine-tenths of the felonies committed per anum—sorree!—per annum in his home state of Texas and that Fed efforts to quell the problem were a failure. Privately, officials of the Nark Force have been heard to express concern at the way GT’s new product Triptine is catching the dicties’ fancy.”
Gerry Lindt is a draftee.
When we say “general” at GT we mean GENERAL. We offer the career of a lifetime to anyone interested in astronautics, biology, chemistry, dynamics, eugenics, ferromagnetism, geology, hydraulics, industrial administration, jet propulsion, kinetics, law, metallurgy, nucleonics, optics, patent rights, quarkology, robotics, synthesis, telecommunications, ultrasonics, vacuum technology, work, X-rays, ylem, zoology …
No, we didn’t miss out your speciality. We just didn’t have room for it in this ad.
Professor Doctor Sugaiguntung is head of the Tectogenetics Department at Dedication University in the Guided Socialist Democracy of Yatakang.
“The incidence of muckers continues to maintain its high: one in Outer Brooklyn yesterday accounted for 21 victims before the fuzzy-wuzzies fused him, and another is still at large in Evanston, Ill., with a total of eleven and three injured. Across the sea in London a woman mucker took out four as well as her own three-month baby before a mind-present standerby clobbered her. Reports also from Rangoon, Lima and Auckland notch up the day’s toll to 69.”
Grace Rowley is seventy-seven and going a bit weak in the head.
Here today and gone tomorrow isn’t good enough for us in this modern age.
Here today and gone today is the pidgin we pluck.
The Right Honourable Zadkiel F. Obomi is the president of Beninia.
“Westaway a piece or two, a stiff note was received in Washington this anti-matter from the Yatakangi government, claiming naval units working out of Isola had trespassed into Yatakang’s territorial waters. Officials will be polite, but it’s an open secret Yatakang’s hundred-island territory gives refuge all the time to Chinese aquabandits who sneak out from so-called neutral ports and ambush U.S patrols in mid-ocean…”
Olive Almerio is the most successful baby-farmer in Puerto Rico.
You know the codders who keep one, two, three shiggies on the string. You know the shiggies who every weekend blast off with a different codder. Envy them?
Like any other human activity this one can be learned. We teach it, in courses tailored to your preferences.
Mrs. Grundy Memorial Foundation (may she spin in her grave).
Chad C. Mulligan was a sociologist. He gave it up.
“Last week’s State Forest fires on the West Coast that laid low hundreds of square miles of valuable timber destined for plastics, paper and organic chemicals were today officially attributed to sabotage by Forestry Commissioner Wayne C. Charles. As yet it is uncertain to whom the guilt belongs: treacherous so-called partisans among our own, or infiltrating reds.”
Jogajong is a revolutionary.
The word is EPTIFY.
Don’t look in the dictionary.
It’s too new for the dictionary.
But you’d better learn what it implies.
We do it to you.
Pierre and Jeannine Clodard are both the children of pieds-noirs, unsurprisingly as they are brother and sister.
“Tornado warnings are out in the following states…”
Jeff Young is “the man to go to” anywhere west of the Rockies for the rather specialised goods he handles: time-fuzes, explosives, thermite, strong acids and sabotage bacteria.
“Turning to the gossipy side: once again the rumour goes the rounds that the small independent African territory of Beninia is in economic chaos. President Kouté of Dahomalia in a speech at Bamako warned the RUNGs that if they attempted to exploit the situation all necessary steps to counter…”
Henry Butcher is an enthusiastic proselytiser for the panacea he believes in.
(RUMOUR Believe all you hear. Your world may not be a better one than the one the blocks live in but it’ll be a sight more vivid.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
It is definite that the man known as Begi is not alive. On the other hand, in at least one sense he isn’t dead either.
“Also it’s noised that Burton Dent is bivving it again, in that he was seen scorting former fuel supply Edgar Jewel into the particulate stages of this anti-matter. Meantime, Pacific time, it looks like Fenella Koch his spouse of three years may be turning spousiness into spiciness with cream-dream Zoë Laigh. Like the slogan says—why not equals why ker-not!”
Mr. & Mrs. Everywhere are construct identities, the new century’s equivalent of the Joneses, except that with them you don’t have to keep up. You buy a personalised TV with homimage attachment which ensures that Mr. & Mrs. Everywhere look, and talk, and move like you.
(HIPCRIME You committed one when you opened this book. Keep it up. It’s our only hope.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
Bennie Noakes sits in front of a set tuned to SCANALYZER orbiting on Triptine and saying over and over, “Christ what an imagination I’ve got!”
“And to close on, the Dept of Small Consolations. Some troubledome just figured out that if you allow for every codder and shiggy and appleofmyeye a space one foot by two you could stand us all on the six hundred forty square mile surface of the island of Zanzibar. ToDAY third MAY twenty-TEN come aGAIN!”
tracking with closeups (1)
The Right Honourable Zadkiel F. Obomi could feel the weight of the night pressing on his grey-wire scalp like the oppressive bulky silence of a sensory deprivation tank. He sat in his large official chair, hand-carved into a design that recreated without copying the sixteenth-century style of the master craftsmen some of whom had been his ancestors … presumably. There had been a long interval when no one had time to care about such things.
Both his hands lay on the edge of the desk before him, as lax as vegetables. The left one showed its pinkish palm to the ceiling, with the creased lines that once, when he was a very small boy, had led a woman of half-French and half-Shango breeding to predict he would be a great hero. The other was turned to show its mahogany back, its tree-knot knuckles, as though poised to rap out a nervous fingertip rhythm.
It did not stir.
The deep intellectual forehead and the arch of his nose were probably Berber. But below the bridge on either side the nostrils flared out and the broad flat lips matched the plump cheeks and round chin and heavy pigmentation. That was all Shinka. He had often said jokingly in the days when his life had room for jokes that his face was a map of his country: invader down to the eyes, native from there on south.
But the eyes themselves, that made the dividing line, were simply human.
The left one was amost hidden under its drooping lid; it had been useless since the assassination bid of 1986, and a long scar still puckered the skin of his cheek and temple. The right one was bright, sharp, darting—at present unfocused, for he was not looking at the other occupant of the room.
The dead night suffocated him: Zadkiel F. Obomi, seventy-four years old, first and thus far only president of the former British colony of Beninia.
Not seeing, he was feeling. At his back, the huge empty nothing of the Sahara—the best part of a thousand miles away, yet so monstrous and so dominant it loomed in his brain like a thunderhead. Before him, beyond the walls, beyond the busy city, beyond the port, the early-night breeze of the Bight, smelling of ocean salt and spices from the ships standing to at the harbour bar. And to either side, forming the shackles that anchored his wrists on the desk against his half-formed desire to move them and turn the next page of the sheaf of documents awaiting his attention, the deadweight of the prosperous lands on whom fortune had smiled.
The population of the planet Earth was numbered in many billions.
Beninia, thanks to the slashed-on-a-map boundaries of the colonial government, had only nine hundred thousand of them.
The wealth of the planet Earth was inconceivable.
Beninia, for the same reason, had a little less than enough to save its people from starving.
The size of the planet Earth was … large enough, so far.
Beninia was pitted and pendulumed, and the walls were closing in.
He heard in memory the soft wheedling arguments.
With a French accent: Geography is on our side; the lie of the land indicates that Beninia should logically join the Dahomalians; the river valleys, the hill passes, the …
With an English accent: History is on our side; we share the same common language; in Beninia Shinka speaks to Holaini, Inoko to Kpala, in the same tongue as Yoruba speaks to Ashanti; join the Republican Union of Nigeria with Ghana and be another RUNG …
Abruptly rage claimed him. He slapped the pile of papers with his open palm and leapt to his feet. The other man in the room jumped up also, face betraying alarm. But he had no time to speak before Mr. President strode out of the door.

In one of the palace’s four high towers, on the inland side where one could look towards the lush green of the Mondo Hills and feel the bleak desolation of the Sahara far beyond, there was a room to which only Mr. President had the key. A guard at the intersection of two corridors saluted him with a quick wave of his ceremonial spear; he nodded and went on by.
As always, he closed and locked the door behind him before he turned on the light. He stood a few seconds in total darkness; then his hand fell to the switch and he blinked his one good eye at the sudden glare.
To his left, resting on a low table adjacent to a flat padded hassock, a copy of the Koran bound in green leather and tooled by hand with golden Arabic script listing the nine-and-ninety honourable names of the Almighty.
To his right, a prie-dieu in traditional Beninian carved ebony, facing a wall on which hung a crucifix. The victim nailed to the wood was as dark as the wood itself.
And facing the door, black masks, crossed spears, two drums, and a brazier of a type only the initiates of the Leopard Claw Brand might see without its disguise of leopard’s fur.
Mr. President took a deep breath. He walked to the low table, picked up the Koran, and methodically shredded each of its pages into confetti. Last, he ripped the leather binding down the spine.
He turned on his heel, removed the crucifix from its peg, and snapped it across. The crucified one fell to the floor and he ground the doll-shape underfoot.
He dragged from the wall each in turn of the masks. He tore away the coloured straw hair from them, poked out the jewelled eyes, broke loose the ivory teeth. He stabbed through the sounding heads of both the drums with one of the spears.
The task complete, he turned off the light, left and locked the room, and at the first disposall chute he came to throw away the one and only key.

2 thoughts on “John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar (Book acquired, 28 Aug. 2020)”

  1. Post is fine but up at 4 a.m. Pacific and it’s a mess. Too much going on to sort. It definitely makes me want to try going back to sleep again. [Consider this, I did just complete ANTKIND by Charlie Kaufman and am now trying to get into JERUSALEM, by Alan Moore. I just ordered One Broken Bubble by Philip Kindred Dick, and so…yeah.]


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