The Crucible of Time

By John Brunner

Rating: 4 stars

This is one heck of an ambitious book, charting the history of an entire planetary civilisation, from the discovery of metal-working up to their first spaceflight, and without a single Human in sight.

Each section of the book is a snapshot into the (never named) world of ‘the folk’, the first following the invention of the first telescope and the beginnings of astronomy, and then the discovery that their solar system is heading right into a crowded area of space, where collisions or disturbances by solar or planetary bodies would herald the extinction of their race. The rest of the book is built on this foundation: the knowledge that, in the long term, their homeworld is doomed, so they need to be able to leave it. They suffer ice-ages, thaws, meteor collisions and more, but the vision never falters.

Brunner does an impressive job in creating an alien race that is similar enough to ourselves that we can still relate to them, but alien at the same time. From their physical form, to their weather-sense and pheromones that mean that it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to lie to each other, he creates a believable race. The technology of the folk is almost entirely biological, and they discover genetic manipulation very early on, and even the radio-analogues and ‘vehicles’ that we see later on are living things. Another strange disjunction with our own history is the lack of any large-scale conflict. In many ways, this is an Eden planet, lacking war, eating fruit grown in the walls of your (also-grown) house, but with the always-present knowledge that Eden is doomed.

An ‘ambitious’ book isn’t necessarily an entertaining one, but this probably ranks up with Stapledon’s Last and First Men as literary history and entertainment in one marvellous package.

Book details

ISBN: 9780099348504
Publisher: Arrow Books
Year of publication: 1983

No Comments »

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post | TrackBack URL

Powered by WordPress