The Stone that Never Came Down – John Brunner

Imagine there’s a cure for all the world’s ills – no more suffering, no more war, no more hatred and no more poverty. Now imagine that this cure poses a threat to the powers that be, a threat that must be contained before the world realises it’s potential. But why? Godheads roam the streets, preaching religious sentiment whilst indulging in self-vindicated violence against those that oppose them – the world is on the brink of bearing witness to yet another World War. Again, why would anyone want to keep things as they are?

This question is precisely the horror of John Brunner’s unsettling Sci-Fi, dystopian novel. For the past 30 years or so it has remained largely forgotten despite it’s interesting grapple with the ethics of medical consent, the chemical and legal ownership of medicine, as well as the capability of mankind to forever alter the world, for the better or not.

Without going too far into the plot-line, the narrative follows the realisation of what this new drug, VC, is capable of, and the consequences of its use. Instead of solely following the narrative arc of the drugs’ creator, Brunner also chooses to follow the development of prominent members of the right-wing political and religious group, The Campaign Against Moral Pollution, through a series of shifting perspectives.

Whilst the writing won’t knock your socks off, the novel was compelling and interesting right till the very end – in many ways it is a precursor to the film Limitless, though the stakes are undeniably higher. And so what Brunner manages to achieve in such a short novel is more than impressive – it is shame that even now, in spite of Brunner’s other successes in the Sci-Fi genre, that The Stone That Never Came Down has yet to have received greater recognition. It is a hidden gem, and if you manage to find it, make sure you read it.

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6 comments

  1. I have this one of the shelf and I’ve read a good 25 of his novels — including the major famous ones. But, was not in the mood for one of his horrid pulp experiences so I never got around to reading this one. Stand on Zanzibar is my FAVORITE SF novel so, I really should read this one… Glad it isn’t one of his lowly The Infinity of Go-type novels…

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    • Strangely this is the only Brunner novel I have read! I might dive into a few more seeing as I enjoyed this one – it’s only short so definitely give it a read, I can’t comment on whether it’s in the same category as the Infinity of Go but it has some really interesting ideas! I’ll be sure to check out Stand on Zanzibar, I haven’t heard of it before.

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      • Three words: Stand on Zanzibar (1968). Followed by The Sheep Look Up, The Jagged Orbit, and Shockwave Rider. The best of his early pulp is Meeting at Infinity (1961) — most of his early work before The Whole Man (1964) is atrocious… Again, unless you like brainless swashbuckling adventure…

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      • Thanks for the recommendations! Just had a look at Stand on Zanzibar and it sounds AMAZING! Definitely on my ‘to read next’ list – haha, maybe every now and then it’s not so bad! Any other sci-fi authors that are definitely worth a read? (My knowledge on that front is sorely lacking, and there’s so much out there).

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