Monday 14 April 2008

Area blogger regrets promising to write report akin to grade 9 book report

A friend of mine is creating some sort of video game for kids to start them thinking about how they're killing the environment and everyone on earth (I may be exaggerating, a little). In preparation for this project, he's asked friends to read some novels with environmental themes and then write reports on them.

Said reports actually demand plot summary and explication of motifs. I haven't thought about motifs since high school but this should be a fun one because John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up is about as subtle as a smack in the face with a spiked baseball bat. The ten motifs that immediately come to mind after having read this book are (in no particular order):

1. Death
2. Death
3. Death
4. Suffering
5. Starvation
6. Desperation
7. Death
8. Human stupidity
9. Death
10. Death

Some claim this book actually started the modern environmental movement because it forced people to consider the long-term implications of what were then subtle signs of trouble. Part of the book's moral (oh yes, is there ever a MORAL) is that people just don't get it until it's too obvious to be ignored. Like when they're almost dead (see motifs above).

Joking and pissiness aside, The Sheep Look Up is a pretty good book. I liked the way Brunner continually moved between stories, telling most sides of it and not until the end, I think, taking sides with the "crazy" environmentalists. It kept things interesting but also made destruction on all levels the story itself instead of the background to the story.

What's scary about this book is not what it promises (it was published in 1972) but how much of what it promised then is true now, albeit in less extreme form - superbugs resulting from our overuse of antibiotics in both people and food animals, the increasing chronic health troubles due to air and water pollution, and food shortages globally, to name just a few.

Kudos to whomever decided to re-print this: it's on recycled paper.

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