Book Review: The Dramaturges of Yan, John Brunner (1982)

1/5 (Drivel)


Imagine a universe where art has evolved to the point where a single man can utilize images, computers, mythology, drugs, history etc to single handily bring about a monumental shift in a culture’s society––even bringing about a past “culture/realization of past” that had long since dissipated on a planet. All this, as one might imagine, for a gigantic price.

So far so good!


John Brunner (of Stand on Zanzibar, The Sheep Look Up, The Shockwave Rider, and The Jagged Orbit fame) weaves (or rather lumps together) a narrative of the arrival of Gregory Chart “who wished to stage the Golden Age of Yan”. Unlike Chart’s other monumental “art/culture changing” projects, this expedition is his first for an alien species.

The Yanfolk are boring.

Humans are interested in the Yanfolk because humans can have “special” relations with them (i.e. humans are only interested in compatible Yanish pleasure organs and Yanish drugs).

Humans call them apes throughout the book. Even outwardly sympathetic humans call them apes. Even humans who translate their epics and claim to appreciate their culture call them apes.

The Humans realize what Chart is up to while Yanfolk what Chart to stay to bring about their Golden Age.


The problems with this novel are manifold and manifest. Too many viewpoints bog down any character development (unlike Stand On Zanzibar where Brunner is conscientiously making a non-novel). The Yanfolk are boring (the humans only like them because of the stated reason above). Oh, and I forgot, the humans don’t need space ships any more. To travel from planet to planet they hop on special surf boards after being brainwashed with the planet coordinates and zip from place to place.

Read Brunner’s masterpieces. Stay away from this drivel. The concept is fascinating but the flaws make this laughably bad.

My brain still hurts from imagines of surf board space travel.

Perhaps it’s all some anti-colonial satire….  Perhaps I completely missed the point….

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