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Stand on Zanzibar
by John Brunner
Foreword by Bruce Sterling
Orb , $20, 550 pp
Release Date: August 16, 2011

The title is an ironic allusion to the fact that a few billion people could stand crowded together and only cover the island of Zanzibar . As the critics of population control would note, so what's the problem with overpopulation? As we know, people consume more than an island and don't have to be standing together to drive everyone crazy. Brunner illustrates social and mental breakdown in a near future that has more people than the world can bear. A ray of hope exists with a tribe that evolved a social happiness pheromone that makes people really all just get along together. This story is intermixed with other people's personal disasters, from drug addled to incest. 40+ years later, is this cautionary novel still relevant? Look at our world now: 7 billion and growing, oil wars, poles melting, bees dying, dysfunctional governments and no end of crazies in sight. The only thing Brunner got wrong was that there's no happiness pheromone. Maybe we should have an all-out crash course Apollo-style Manhattan project to discover such a wonder drug. God knows nothing else is working. At least we have this book to read. ~~ Mike Griffin

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