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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Jagged Orbit

Copyright 1979 by John Brunner

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Very good (4/5)

I first read this in 1973 and most recently on the 23rd January 2007

Matthew Flamen is the last "spoolpigeon" in the USA. As a spoolpigeon, he hosts his own national TV programme, his daily shows dedicated to revealing corruption amongst corporate and celebrity America. Matthew doesn't just report his opinions, he uses his very powerful computers to work out the probabilities of the likely veracity of events and rumours. If his computers tell him that something is pretty darn certain, then he'll report it. Now his computers are telling him that there are is a strange upheaval in the Gottschalk organization. This one' he's nervous about - the Gottschalks are the major domestic and international munitions company. Ex-mafia, fostering conflict wherever they can, they supply weapons to country against country, race against race and tribe against tribe. In a country made paranoid by Gottschalk propaganda, city blocks have their own civil defense teams, highly trained and ready to shoot to kill.

James Reedeth is a psychiatrist at the Ginsberg Memorial Hospital For The Mentally Maladjusted. its architecture that of a fairy tale castle reinterpreted unsympathetically in concrete. He sees his city sliding into insanity and yet those that can't cope with the madness of everyday life are committed to an asylum run by deranged, power-hungry paranoids.

Lyla Clay is a modern-day medium. Given a mortal dose of a particular drug and instead of dying in agony, she can read the feelings and thoughts of those around her. Perhaps it wasn't the greatest idea to ask her to perform at the asylum in front of the patients.

Along the lines of "Stand On Zanzibar", Brunner achieves another classic with this exciting and stimulating novel. This vision of a dystopian near future - 2013 to be precise - is shockingly possible.

What really surprised me is that this novel from the early 1970s is in many ways more likely to be true by its target date, 2013, now than it was in the 70s. One normally expects to smile at old near-future novels with their dreams of aircars and household robots by the 1990s. Yet this novel leaves a more scary aftertaste than it did when I first read way back when, although in our modern world any civil war may be religion- rather than race-related. It would be still, even now, to slip and slide into this chilling, repellent future.

Some chapters are simply illustrative articles and quotes from 1968 and provide an eerie background realism to the novel.

What's it got? some impressive weaponry, a nice take on yashmaks and knickers and of course general excellence.

Loaded on the 28th February 2007.
Cover of The Jagged Orbit