Book Diary: John Brunner – Meeting at Infinity

Meeting at Infinity by John BrunnerThis is an early novel by John Brunner (first published in 1961) and it has been all but eclipsed by his later work – rather regrettably so, as this is well worth reading, not just as juvenilia that paved the way for greater things, but as an excellent novel in its own right.

Meeting at Infinity starts off very much at the deep end, with a prologue written in rhythmically accented, suggestive prose that shoots a barrage of names and concepts at the reader none of which are in the least explained. It lends the novel a very hectic, modernist feel right from the start, and things slow down only slightly when the plot proper sets in, and a plethora of viewpoint characters flick past in quick succession while the action rushes along at a fast pace, leaving the reader trying to catch up breathlessly. And once everything seems to fall into place and things finally start to make turns, it turns out that nothing is really as it seems…

While the novel never really loses steam and keeps the reader gripped until the nicely delivered twist at the end, it seems to run out of new ideas to throw around about two thirds in and ends somewhat blandly as an alien invasion story. While this a bit disappointing it is relatively minor quibble for a novel that packs an insane amount of ideas in such a small space (showing once again that a novel can be great and entertaining even under 300 pages). It reads a bit like a Philip K. Dick novel, and while it is not quite as mind-boggling as the best by Dick, it is much better written. I also could not help but wonder how much of an influence this novel might have had on later writers, namely William Gibson, Iain M. Banks and Hannu Rajaniemi came to my mind quite often while reading this. In any case, it’s great to see this made available again by the SF Gateway, and I’m rather looking forward to eventually making my way through all of Brunner’s oeuvre.

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2 comments

  1. I think this is Brunner’s best pre-Stand on Zanzibar work…. Stand on Zanzibar is my all-time favorite science fiction novel. Not all of his early stuff is as readable and enjoyable as this Meeting at Infinity…

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