catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world

Estimated reading time is 2 minutes.

I WAS MOTIVATED to dig up my old copy of Poul Anderson’s novel Brain Wave when I discovered Joachim Boaz’s site Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations. I read Joachim’s take on the Anderson book (he considered it “vaguely good”) and the comments submitted by his readers and I disagreed with certain observations of theirs. So, I want to address a few of those issues here on my site. 

But first, an anecdote: my copy of Brain Wave is buried in a box somewhere and I wasn’t sure that I would find it. Then, last Saturday, having coffee with Jon and Ami Pilon, I mentioned the book and the review and my determination to reread it and see if my take jibed with theirs. Jon reads a lot of fantasy and some SF and I thought he might enjoy the book’s premise. He was, in fact, intrigued.


1953. The story that became the novel Brain Wave was first published as “The Escape” in the November 1953 issue of Space Science Fiction magazine. The cover art has that certain solid utilitarian look of socialist art of the 1930s. It was published as a paperback novel by Ballantine the following year (see image below).

I assured him that when I found my copy, I would lend it to him—and then ship it off to my sister in Pennsylvania for a read. After Berni and I left Jon and Ami, we went to Half Price Books and, as always, I checked for my faves (Spinrad, Ellison, Anderson, and others) to no avail. Finding science fiction paperbacks from the ’50s and ’60s has been difficult for a long time and books from the ’70s are becoming equally hard to find.

Then I walked past one the dollar racks (an old-fashioned metal spinner that stands on the floor independent of any shelving) and an old Anderson title caught my eye. Flipping through the books, I found six older Anderson titles for a buck apiece, and lo and behold, one of them was a like-new copy of the 1973 Ballantine edition of Brain Wave—the same edition that I had bought forty years before and that led to my fascination with Anderson (and discussed briefly below)!



I have taken this article (“Catch A Wave And You’re Sitting On Top Of The World,” a play on words and a Beach Boys allusion) and rewritten  and expanded it and added a dozen photos to it and republished it as “on poul anderson’s brain wave.” Click on over and give it a read, why doncha . . .

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