[Book Review] The Sheep Look Up

The Sheep Look Up / John Brunner

I almost put this book down several pages in.  Narrative voices, even those true to the character the story is focusing at the time... can be a challenge, and in this case the book slapped me in the face with racism that made me concerned for the whole story.  The story is a lot more than one character's bigotry, that being a single piece of a multi-faceted puzzle shaped together by different and divergent experiences throughout.  Warring ideologies and biases are central to the overall plot.  The picture it paints of a potential future pulls uncomfortably on many things that resonate as much today as they did when the book was written.

In terms of outlook and despair it puts me in mind of Peter Watts' work, a destructive nihilistic view of humanity's future.  An interesting book, and one that I'm not sure I would have picked and read on my own, were it not for a chance discovery and impulse.

Discussion Fodder:
  • As a book set in a future that is now in the past, how do the fears and dangers mirror what we look at in our present and future, how do they diverge?
  • Lets talk about the war of ideologies.  How do they clash against each other, how are they misinterpreted, how do they differ?
  • How does the book handle gender, race, sexuality, power, wealth, etc?
  • What about the story is realistic/unrealistic?  What is unsettling or familiar?
  • Are there other titles that The Sheep Look Up is comparable to?  From then, now, or the intervening years?


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