Jun 10

Unlike dogs... who can't look up... Click for full image

Frank’s Art Direction: Well, the title’s about sheep, and the story’s clearly about a near future where the air is very polluted. What can you do with that?
Published 1973

Actually, that cover IS a classical work of art!I would touch it without protective gloves.I've seen worse. Far, far, worse.Interesting, but I would still read it in public.Middlng: Neither awful nor awfully goodWould not like to be seen reading that!Awful... just awful...That belongs in a gold-lame picture frame!Gah... my eyes are burning! Feels so good!Good Show Sir! (Average: 6.14 out of 10)

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36 Responses to “The Sheep Look Up”

  1. Phil Says:

    Hooray, comedy arising from the conjunction of title and author: The sheep look up John Brunner.

    Almost as good as Dostoyevsky the idiot.

    Of course, these are not exactly sheep so much as people with ram’s horns and gas masks.

    Is there a word (or indeed a tag) for that thing of drawing parallel lines that get closer and closer to suggest a horizon? ‘Cause that’s what’s happening here.

  2. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:


  3. Tom Hering Says:

    When a cover blurb uses the word “important” it’s as good as saying we won’t enjoy this novel but we should read it. When it uses “important” twice it’s telling us we can’t say we weren’t warned.

  4. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    Books is in bold. So you know he’s writing about books. Not sheep or porridge. That’s important.

  5. Jaouad Says:

    Why do these people have hair dryers for faces? They don’t even have hair!

  6. FeařofMusiç Says:

    Aiieeee!! NOOO!!! This book, with this cover caused certain unpleasantness to be inflicted on me when I was ten.

    School Thug:”What you looking at?”

    Me:”It’s a book.”

    School Thug:”I know it’s a book smart-ass. What is that on the cover? Looks stupid”

    Me:”Uhm,’s these people and they, uh, represent…ah yeah it’s kinda stupid.”

    School Thug:”The Sheep Look Up? More like the sheep run off. Cuz they know you wanna do them. Ha ha ha!”
    (cronies join in laughter)
    School Thug:”What is this crap anyway? What kinda book is thie anyway?”

    Me:”Science fiction.”

    School Thug:”Homo fiction? Ha ha! Science books suck.”

    Me:” Not science. Science fiction. There’s a difference.”

    School Thug:”No there ain’t. It all sucks. That Captain Spock stuff is for losers.”

    Me:”Captain what? I think you mean..”

    School Thug:”Shaddup freako. All the same. I don’t get none of it.”

    Me:”Of cours not

  7. FearofMusic Says:

    Cliffhanger! Can you predict what came next?

    Me:” You have to have intelligence, or at least a functioning brain.”

    Commence the beating.

    God Bless the Internet.

  8. FeařofMuşic Says:

    File under “Lesson Not Learned”

    Same scenario with even more severe beating over Philip K.Dick’s. ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’

  9. Rachel J Says:

    And what was next, Feař? “Chronicules”?

  10. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    Stout fellow, FöM! It’s not like the regular beatings induced aphasia or dlkjsalhgoinvavoihoiawr

  11. FeařofMusic Says:

    @Rachel J: Actually, if I had been reading Compton I could have escaped whilst he was trying to figure out how to pronounce the title.

  12. Bibliomancer Says:

    @FoM — More like “commence the bleatings”

    I used to own this copy with this cover. It doesn’t really rate highly in Good Show Sir over-the-top-ness. It’s just stupid.

  13. SI Says:

    Man 1: Sir… I am sure there are more practical designs for gas masks!

    Man 2: Shut up! I don’t want to hear your lies..

  14. Tom Noir Says:

    “Hey Bob, do you ever think that we might all just being a bunch of oddly assembled clip-art on an abstract background?”

    “Hush, Mike, Duck Dynasty is about to come on.”

  15. Bibliomancer Says:

    Further readings from “Filthy Limericks About Naked Alien Chicks” by Reginald Bogscrotum:

    “The Sheep Look Up” we all knew
    Is an IMPORTANT NOVEL to review
    But like the rest on this site
    The cover’s a fright
    Both the artist and ram say screw ewe

  16. THX 1138 Says:

    Great book, and this cover really rams the point home. Ahem.

  17. B. Durbin Says:

    “The hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed,
    But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw,
    Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread:”

    Lycidas, John Milton

    It’s basically about the polluted death of America, and has some frighteningly prescient ideas in it (such as the popularity of organic foods without the checks to make sure they’re really organic…)

    Anyway. Typical dystopian cover for its time, which makes it supremely mockable.

  18. Linden Says:

    Are ewe my mummy?

  19. Scott B Says:

    “The Sheep Look Creepy”

    Alternately, “The Sheep Look Like They’ve Been Working Out”

  20. A.R.Yngve Says:

    A novel so important that it’s more important than any of the truly important novels that have been the most important of important books. Important to the max!

  21. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    The sheep look up
    The arms stick down
    The horns all curly-cue around
    The black lines run
    Across the front
    Divide the field like Zeno’s stunt

    The serifs are not to be found
    And now my muse is winding down!

  22. B. Chiclitz Says:

    @Biblioman—well, I figured it was just a matter of time before this showed up. Looks just as stupid as it did in 1971. Seems to have inspired some nice GSS-style versification and punning, however. I guess really, no, really, important novels will do that. This one’s so important it had to crib its title from Milton (thanks, @B. Durbin), that well-known 17th c. science fiction writer ( The Beast from Paradise, Lost, The Evil Comet of Comus, Samson “Space Cat” Agonistes, etc.).

  23. Bibliomancer Says:

    @B.Chiclitz — Johnny Milton. Didn’t he write that gambling memoir: “Pair of Dice, Lost”?

    I was hoping the French translation would have a cool title like “Les Moutons Regarder en Haut” but instead it is the boring “Le Troupeau Aveugle” (The Blind Herd).

  24. Jami Says:

    Darn, Linden beat me to the Doctor Who reference, and did it better than me. All I could come up with is “Are you my MAAAAAAAummy?”

  25. Simon Says:

    Oh I don’t know I quite like it…

  26. Rachel J Says:

    Baaa humbug!

  27. Ray P Says:

    At least they can blow each other.

  28. Jon K. Says:

    @B. Chiclitz & Bibliomancer: Isn’t that the way to come up with book titles?

    I remember reading the editor’s notes for “Mortal Engines”, a compilation of some of Stanislaw Lem’s short stories about robots. The publisher approached translator/editor Michael Kandel with the idea of putting together a book that Lem didn’t assemble. In the foreward, Kandel says something like the following – “For the title, I followed the time-honored tradition of looking at Bartlett’s.”

  29. B. Chiclitz Says:

    @Jon K.—I think Kandel was on to something. I just randomly grabbed this quote from Bartlett’s:
    AUTHOR: George John Whyte-Melville (1821–1878) QUOTATION: Ah, better to love in the lowliest cot Than pine in a palace alone.

    There must a be half-dozen potential sic-fi titles embedded in this quotation.
    “Better to Love than Be Vaporized.”
    “The Lowliest Cot on Spaceship Xeno.”
    “Pining in the Palace of Positrons.”


  30. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    GOOD SHOW TROPES: The Lowliest Cot on Spaceship Xeno

    The Lowliest Cot on Spaceship Xeno is a Sci-Fi Romance novel by Jon Chiclitz.

    In the year 3XXX, the painter Mario Cavaradossi hides his friend, escaped political prisoner Cesare Angelotti, from the police. Unfortunately this brings both him and his sweetheart, the singer Floria Tosca, to the attention of the villainous chief of police Scarpia. Scarpia sends Mario and Cesare to Pluto on Spaceship Xeno and puts the moves on Tosca. Will Mario and Cesare escape, fall in love, or a bit of both? Will Tosca keep her legs crossed? Will Scarpia end up with a dagger through his face? For the last of these, the cover has answers.


    Aristocrats Are Evil: Scarpia is not a nice person. And dead.
    The Bad Guy Wins: He wins by being dead. It’s deep.
    Better to Die than Be Killed: No, wait. The other way round.
    Clingy Jealous Girl: Tosca holds onto that dagger mighty tight.
    Cold-blooded Torture: Mario and Cesare are tortured on the surface of Pluto, at roughly -250°.
    Downer Ending: The novel ends with Mario and Cesare in the gravity well.
    Dread Buttsechs
    Due the Dead: Cesare dies complaining about his overdue library book
    Evil Sounds Deep: There are evil sounds deep under Pluto.
    Exact Words: Subverted. The evil sounds deep under Pluto aren’t exact words.
    Extremely Short Time Span: Mario and Cesare are arrested on a Tuesday evening. By Wednesday at tea-time they have been prosecuted, sentenced, run through their appeals, been transported off-world, had a romantic affair, plotted their escape, escaped successfully, had another romantic affair, and arrived back on Earth just as Tosca stabs Scarpia.
    It seems that neither Mario nor Cesare last long during…
    Ghost Buttsechs
    Gorgeous Period Dress: But still, a time of the month for Floria and her wardrobe.
    Good Bad Girl:Tosca. Sorry, I couldn’t think of anything funny.
    Hiding Behind Religion: Cesare’s religious principles require hiding his behind.
    Hope Spot: Lower left-hand corner, by the Bantam symbol.
    Hot Buttsechs
    Irrelevant Act Opener: The second act of the novel opens up with a description of Prison Spaceship Xeno. The rest of the act focuses on the cot Mario and Cesare share.
    Kill ‘Em All: Scarpia thinks it’s WAY better than Ride the Lightning, but not as good as Master of Puppets.
    Lyrical Dissonance: See Kill ‘Em All.
    Moral Myopia: Scarpia worships his glasses. Tosca shivs him through them.
    No Sense of Personal Buttsechs
    Not What It Looks Like Averted up the…whatever.
    Ominous Latin Chanting: Scarpia’s pickup technique.
    Poor Communication Kills: If Tosca had told Cesare and Mario to wait for her to run off to Pluto, they wouldn’t have tried to escape and return to Earth.
    Tosca’s dagger has ‘Poor Communication’ written on the handle
    Rash Equilibrium: After their first night on Spaceship Xeno, this is what Mario and Cesare reach.
    Scarpia Ultimatum: Trope Codifier.
    Scenery Porn: Of the homoerotic kind.
    See You In Hell: Pluto is not a very nice place out of doors.
    Subverted, in that for 140 years or so it’s too dark to see.
    Shot At Dawn: The escape ship is launched towards the Sun.
    Buttsechs Me, O Mighty Buttsechser
    Shout Out:Of the ‘erotic rapture’ variety.
    Scarpia shouts out in pain as he gets stabbed
    Staged Shooting: Tosca swaps her knife for a gun and claims Scarpia shot himself.
    Tenor Boy: Twenty for twice.
    These Hands Have Killed: Averted: On the cover art, Tosca’s hands have been replaced with trees.
    Very Little Explanation of How the Characters Got to Pluto, Mounted an Escape, and Made It to Earth in Less Than Eight Hours: Trope Codifier.
    Villain Song: It turns out that it was the noises under Pluto all along!
    White Boys Can’t Buttsechs

    various naughty noises

  31. Jon K. Says:

    @B. Chiclitz: You saw what DSWBT says. You wanna write “The Lowliest Cot on Spaceship Xeno” or paint the cover?

  32. RachelJ Says:

    If he writes it, I’ll do the cover. Promise. Literal space opera is a sadly neglected genre…

  33. B. Chiclitz Says:

    @RachelJ, Jon K.—as the clearly Barthesian-possessed DSWBT has brilliantly demonstrated, *The Lowliest Cot on Spaceship Xeno* is a novel that writes itself, or perhaps more accurately assembles itself. The cover, however, might require some effort, so I gladly hand it off.

  34. Jon K. Says:

    @RachelJ: Now I’m really worried – I’ve never written a libretto….

    @B. Chiclitz: “Jon Chiclitz” has a better ring to it than my real name; I might have to ‘borrow’ it for “The Lowliest Cot on Spaceship Xeno.”

  35. B. Chiclitz Says:

    @Jon K.—that’s cool, it’s not me anyway.

  36. B. Chiclitz Says:

    @DSWBT—I think we’re all just tropes on this bus. (honk honk)

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