I first read this a couple of years ago and was unimpressed. But I must have been out of sorts generally because I enjoyed it much more this time. It is set in what is now the very near future – May and the summer of 2010 – and concerns two different projects to change the future of the human race, a massive investment in the African country of Beninia and the genetic experiments of the Asian archipelago of Yatakang. The narrative is broken up with vignettes of daily life in Brunner’s future dystopia, where human reproduction is increasingly harshly limited by law, and nobody’s motives are above suspicion (and there is an almost sentient computer). It is rather long but surprisingly tightly written given the diversity of material and perspective; rather a dazzling example of the New Wave.
Stand on Zanzibar won the 1968 Hugo for Best Novel, beating Alexei Panshin’s Nebula-winning Rite of Passage (a decent book with a stupid ending), and also three books I haven’t read, Nova by Samuel R. Delany, Past Master by R.A. Lafferty, and The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak. One of those years when the Nebula shortlist was better; it also included Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick and Picnic on Paradise by Joanna Russ.