The 100th Millennium – John Brunner (1959)
‘THEY SEARCHED THE PAST TO ESCAPE THE FUTURE
THE MAN WHO CRIED “DOOMSDAY!”
There was a new star in the sky – another sun heading directly for the Solar System on a collision orbit. It meant the end of the world!
Creohan, who made the discovery, realized that in a few short years the oceans would boil, the forests and cities would be engulfed in flame, and life would be scorched from the surface of the world. But Creohan also knew that somewhere among the accumulated lore of 100,000 years of civilization ther e would be the scientific knowledge that would even turn a star aside.
But find that knowledge turned out to be a nightmare. For none of the decadent people of THE 100TH MILLENNIUM would listen to him. And Creohan realised that this time the saving of the world was entirely up to himself alone!
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Creohan knew that the past would provide the answers to the future
Chalyth found friends at the bottom of the sea
Madal loved security more than she loved life.
Hoo existed to provide food to a deserted city
Vance got himself hopelessly lost just a few miles from home.
Paro-Mni managed to be discontented with the perfect society’
Blurb from the D-362 1959 Ace doubles edition
In a style very reminiscent of Vance, with echoes of Brian Aldiss, Brunner takes us to a far future of decadent humanity whose sole aim is to live in a past era of their choosing via the dreams of the History machines.
Creohan, the main protagonist, aimed initially to be a Historian also, but discovered, almost by accident, a sun heading toward the Solar System, which would destroy our sun and the Earth three hundred years hence.
Finding only apathy in his own city he sets out with a female companion, Chalyth, to find the residents of the other cities and rouse the populace to start working toward deflecting the sun.
The style and dialogue is, as I have said, very Vance-esque.
Creohan encounters several other characters including a paranoid race of tiny humans and an intelligent dolphin creature before he reaches his goal at a mountain, where the history of humanity and perhaps its future is revealed.
In this world people can grow houses from seeds and the streets are lit at night by genetically engineered birds with glowing feathers.
There seems to have been a fashion – which can’t be solely due to Vance’s ‘Dying Earth’ tales, for depicting Far Future earths as places where decadent humans comport themselves with pure pleasure, unwilling to try and discover anything new since all that was new has long been discovered.
Of course, there was a suggestion of this in Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’ and in some of the ‘Zothique’ tales of Clark Ashton Smith, but the concept appears to have blossomed in the late 50s, through to the 70s and intermittently beyond. Apart from ‘The Dying Earth’, Moorcock’s ‘Dancers At The End of Time’, M John Harrison’ ‘Viriconium’ tales, Karl Edward Wagner’s ‘Kane’ novels and Wolfe’s ‘Book of The New Sun’ are just a handful of examples.
This lacks many of the baroque attributes of the other titles and at heart is merely a quest tale with a simple structure, but there are flashes of ingenuity and signs certainly of what a good writer Brunner was destined to become.