Book Review: Brain Wave by Poul Anderson

Greetings, Happy Readers!

This is just a short review of a classic from the late 50’s. I got it a long while back as a borrow on Amazon, and finally let my Kindle read it to me. (Yes, I cheated.)

So, here’s Review #2 of 2021.

Brain Wave by Poul Anderson

Brain Wave is a science fiction novel by American writer Poul Anderson, first published in serial form in Space Science Fiction in 1953, and then as a novel in 1954.

The Amazon Link & Blurb…

From Goodreads:

With “wonderfully logical detail . . . exciting storytelling and moving characterization” (Anthony Boucher), science fiction master Poul Anderson explores what happens when the next stage of evolution is thrust upon humanity and animals. As Earth passes out of a magnetic field that has suppressed intelligence for eons, the mental capacity for all mammals increases exponentially, radically changing the structures of society.

 A mentally impaired farm worker finds himself capable of more delicate and intelligent thoughts than he ever dreamed. A young boy on holiday manages to discern the foundations of calculus before breakfast. Animals that were seen as livestock and pets can now communicate clearly with their owners and one another. And an already brilliant physics researcher now uses his boundless intellect to bring humankind to the stars—even as his wife plunges into an existential crisis. For all of them, the world will never be the same . . .

My Review

Brain Wave

Brain Wave by Poul Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A thought provoking product of a different era, this novel dives deep into the psychological aspects of mankind’s tendencies. It examines how people would ‘evolve’ if intelligence were suddenly increased exponentially. Predicted reactions include a wide range: madness, chaotic self-delusional religiosity, loss of emotion, and eventually transcendence. The sudden shift destroys society as it exists and forces the survivors to new heights. Even the animals and mentally handicapped get exponentially smarter, but are still so far removed from the new average that they can barely relate.

I found myself thinking back to Vernor Vinge’s Zones of Thought series several times. The concept of a force in space disrupting the speed of thoughts is the common thread.

This book did feel a bit dated (as you would expect), but the concepts still apply. It was very esoteric, with little action, but some nice suspense in places. The characters were well developed, and their motivations presented in detail (maybe too much at times). I did like somewhat happy ending, although it was also a mixture of sad.

I can recommend this book to anyone who wants to do some deep thought experiments with a classic sci-fi tale.

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If Science Fiction Space Adventure is what you crave, then you should check out my anthology, Horizons Unlimited: Volume 1.


Matter conversion technology—Matt-Con—has broadened the scope of mankind’s existence. It has opened up the real possibility of viable colonies on other planets in our solar system, and even space itself. Anywhere matter can be captured or energy from the sun can be felt, the possibility of expanding human habitation exists.

In this volume:

Quicksilver (short story)

The space station Chariot of Helios—on its way to Mercury to become a power collection station for Earth’s growing need for energy to power matt-con tech—encounters a strange anomaly that threatens ship and crew.

Null Gravitas (short story)

New crew and new relationships form above the skies of Venus. A post-prequel to Escaping Aurora.

Escaping Aurora (novella)

The sudden destruction of mankind’s first atmospheric terraforming platform leaves three unlucky exonauts struggling to survive in the skies of Venus aboard a cobbled-together airship. Meanwhile, the commander of the space station above battles obstacles that might keep her from rescuing her stranded husband and crew in time.

If you like intrigue, humor and a bit of speculative technological supposition, you should pick up a copy of my technothriller-comedy eConscience Beta from Amazon today!

Peacekeeper Incorporated’s breakthrough nanotechnology could bring repeat offense crime to an end, freeing society from the need for criminal incarcerations. But first, they have to finish testing it. With funding on the line, and time to prove out the project getting short, the lead scientist must find a way speed things up. That’s unfortunate for his guinea pig, and anyone who would stand in his way.

Can the goal of ending most crime justify committing one… even a few?
And what happens when you conflate altruism with egotism?

Find out in eConscience Beta, where two lab techs and an uncouth petty criminal must outwit a brilliant but sociopathic scientist who’ll stop at nothing to establish his legacy as the man who ended crime.


Oh, and check out these Corner Scribblers anthologies. I have stories in them all! Here are some links!


  1. I found this book in a box of books I bought from a yard sale a few years ago. I haven’t read it yet because I didn’t have the other book but I will probably go looking for them now. It honestly sounds pretty good.


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