John Brunner, The Dramaturges of Yan (1972)

October 7th, 2009

1972 was an off year for John Brunner. He only produced 5 books and two of those were short story collections. In the 1960s and 1970s John wrote a whole bunch of words. Unfortunately, he knocked off mediocre novels just as fast as he produced the brilliant ones.

The Dramaturges of Yan fits somewhere in the middle ground of quality, better than most, but not one of his brilliant stories. John Brunner, by 1972 had learned the advantages of self medication with hallucinogens and it shows here. (I can only assume this, but I think it is a good guess based on the stylistic changes in his writing.) The story is a sort of passion play within a play about an ancient civilization of human-like aliens. These aliens are unique in the explored galaxy in that they can have sex with humans.

The Dramaturge comes to the planet to create a dramatic spectacle that will involve the entire planet and will be viewed by the entire civilized universe. This spectacle will recreate the events of the historical catastrophe which changed the alien world.

The characters are the typical Brunner group of thoughtful men and beautiful sexy women. Brunner’s protagonists often have a little too much stiff upper lip and dry reserve, as might be expected of a very British writer.

Brunner’s books are always filled to the brim with sciencefictional ideas, but the central idea of an ancient civilization committing suicide is disappointing and the characters never reach the point where I care much what happens to them. Brunner seems intent on bringing his theme to a conclusion as quickly as possible so he can get on to his next book.

I am beginning to think that it is best to read only the very best of Brunner and the very worst. The 50s space operas do not pretend to be anything other than cheap escapes and the later grand theme novels are too amazing to miss. The lesser novels in the middle are good for getting new story ideas that Brunner has tired and discarded, but for the most part are a waste of my time.

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