Friday, September 23, 2011

Brain Wave by Poul Anderson (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

”BrainBrain Wave
by Poul Anderson
narrated by Tom Weiner

Copyright: 2011 Blackstone Audio
Duration: 5 hours 59 minutes unabridged
Genres: science fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews
Click the image to visit the publisher’s website.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: For millions of years, the part of the galaxy containing our solar system has been moving through a vast force field that has been inhibiting certain electromagnetic and electrochemical processes and, thus, certain neurotic functions. When Earth escapes the inhibiting field, synapse speed immediately increases, causing a rise in intelligence, which results in a transfigured humanity reaching for the stars, leaving behind our earth to the less intelligent humans and animal life-forms.

This is a transcendent look at the possible effects of enhanced intelligence on our planet.

©1954 Poul Anderson (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: At first, the changes were subtle. All over the world people began coming up with really good ideas. Before long, laboratories everywhere were churning out incredible leaps in deductive reasoning. Under normal circumstances it may have taken years to figure out what was happening but as average IQ’s climbed to 200, then 300, and higher, the answer seemed to come almost intuitively. For the entire span of life on Earth our galaxy, in its endless revolution through the universe, was passing through a cloud, or force field, that inhibited the full potential of our brain activity and now we were passing out of it. Finally it seemed that humanity would be able to solve its petty problems and rivalries and work together toward an enlightened state of being. But as it turned out, an increase in intelligence did not necessarily mean an increase in harmony. There were still those who would cling to the old ways and use their higher potential to further their own plans.

Brain Wave was first published in serial form in ”Space Science Fiction” magazine in 1953 and in novel form in 1954. Stories about heightened intelligence were something of a fad in the science fiction genre of the time and Poul Anderson has said that he considers Brain Wave one of his top five novels.

Poul Anderson tells this story from two different perspectives: one a scientist who is already very intelligent, and the other a farmhand who can’t even operate a car. This was a good way to tell the story because it kind of lets us see both ends of the spectrum.

The first perspective is that of Peter Corinth, a physicist in New York City and a genius by pre-change standards. Through Peter’s eyes we see how a major metropolitan area is affected. At first it seems that the increased intelligence does more harm than good, as those in menial jobs like garbage collecting or janitorial work no longer want to do them. It is a struggle to achieve a new balance in society. On the other end of the scale it takes scientists no time at all to solve the problems of space travel and venture out into the galaxy. In an interesting twist that I’ve never seen in science fiction before, it turns out that humans are the most advanced beings in the universe.

The second perspective is that of Archie Brock, a hand at a farm not too many miles distant from the New York City limits. Archie has been called a moron all his life and can’t even seem to operate a car with any success. All at once he begins to wonder why he had so much trouble with that as it seems perfectly simple to him now. Archie also begins to notice things about the world around him, which he never thought about before. What I like best about Archie’s perspective is that it lets us see how the animals are reacting. The change isn’t just happening to people, it is apparently affecting all living creatures. A rabbit suddenly understands how to open the gate on a trap it has just walked into and foxes learn how to open the latched door of the chicken coop. When Archie tries to hitch up two horses to a wooden plow they promptly stomp the thing to pieces. And in a scene eerily reminiscent of Animal Farm, the pigs break out of their pen and organize themselves into an attack on the feed barn before escaping into the surrounding woods. Throughout the rest of the story Archie has to watch out for the pigs and guard against them. It’s pretty creepy to think about how the various animals of the world might react if they suddenly became intelligent, but no creepier than thinking of how some people would react I suppose.

Tom Weiner has done tons of voice-over work in movies and video games, particularly in the anime genre. I found him to have a good narrating voice, deep and resonant, but thought his intonation and inflection could be better.

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Special thanks to Blackstone Audio for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.

1 comment:

joni said...

I thought Animal Farm was creepy now this? Did he borrow the idea?

We writers do have a tendency to feed off of what others write, and sometimes we make it better. I hope that is what this Poul Anderson did. :)

Is that spelled right? P-O-U-L?
I've never seen it spelled that way.

Editor in me. ;)