Brain Wave

Brain Wave is a science fiction novel by Poul Anderson first published in serial form in Space Science Fiction in 1953. And Then have a novel in 1954. Anderson HAD Said That he Could Consider It de son one top five books [1] This is one of many science fiction works at this time on the theme of heightened intelligence.

Plot summary

At the end of the Cretaceous period , Earth moved into an energy-damping field in space. As long as Earth was in this field, all conductors became more insulating. As a result, almost all of life on Earth with neurons died off, causing the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event . The ones that survived passed on their genes for capable neurons to deal with the new circumstance. Now in modern times, Earth suddenly moves out of the field. Within weeks all animal life on Earth becomes about 5 times as intelligent . The novel goes through the triumphs and tribulations of various people and non-human animals on Earth after this event.

The book opens with a description of a rabbit , stuck inside a trap, becoming able to reason his way out. This is a common theme in the book. Animal traps are based on the idea that the animals can not get out of their way. When the animals get the ability to reason, they start escaping.

Institutions which appeared to be vital to the society, such as to money economy and centralized government, disappear in North America; while Africans, with the assistance of chimpanzees, colonial rule, and Chinese rebel against the Communist government. However, some of the means by which people cope with the “change” are inventing new anti-scientific religions such as the Third Ba’al, or adopting pseudo-science .

As humans develop interstellar travel, they discover no other races are as intelligent as they; other races developed pre-change intelligence, and there was no


Archie Brock

Archie Brock, one of the characters in the story, is mentally disabled; When the earth moves out of the field, it becomes a genius by pre-change standards. His character is central to the story. Halfway through the book he has taken over the farm that he worked on, with the help of his dog (who now understands simple English) and some escaped circus animals (two chimps and an elephant), they successfully run the farm together. Even though his intelligence has grown fivefold, so has everyone else’s. It is still a relative simpleton, but has a lot to do with it. In the end, when nearly all humans leave Earth, they decide to stay behind them.

Dr. Peter Corinth

Physics researcher who spent a brief period at Los Alamos in WWII. He is one of the first to understand the change. After the change he experiences an emotional battle to stay in his office. He becomes a pilot of the first spaceship to explore the galaxy. As part of that exploration, he is still growing in the energy-damping field. His mind gets off to work on the complex controls, and he must wait for the ship to move back to the field on its own.

Sheila Corinth

Wife of Peter Corinth. She is a housewife before the change. The first effect she goes through is a philosophical realization that her life as a housewife is “better” than that of her non-conformist friends. Later on she begins to lose her sanity from having to deal daily with the existential crisis. Her story is typical of many people in the book who did not have the intelligence before the change to know how bad their situations were. Later on, she goes into her husband’s lab to use an electroconvulsive therapy machine to destroy her brain, bringing her back to life. She leaves Peter and Archie Brock’s farm.

Felix Mandelbaum

Neighbor of the Corinths. Before the change he is a Jewish executive secretary of a local union. He is 50 years old and was born on the lower East Side of New York. Later on he becomes “executive of the world.”


Some have argued that the book is too short, which might have been a result of the editor. For example, Thomas M. Wagner [2] writes:

“the book does not feel like a lot of people”

Reviewer Groff Conklin praised the novel as an “original idea … brilliantly carried out” but faulted its “rather fumbling ending.” [3] P. Schuyler Miller described Brain Wave as “a brilliant idea that somehow does not quite come off.” [4]Anthony Boucher praised the novel, saying that “Anderson has worked out in wonderfully logical detail of the logical consequences of [his] assumption [and] advanced his speculation with exciting storytelling and moving characterization.” [5] Leslie Flood wrote in New Worlds that ” Brain Waveis a convincing, humanly realistic example of the wonders of the novel science fiction at its literary and thought-provoking best “. [6]


  1. Jump up^ Locus: Poul Anderson interview
  2. Jump up^ SF REVIEWS.NET: Brain Wave / Poul Anderson ☆☆☆
  3. Jump up^ “Galaxy’s 5 Star Shelf”, Galaxy Science Fiction , September 1954, p.114
  4. Jump up^ “The Reference Library,” Astounding Science Fiction , March 1954, pp.154
  5. Jump up^ “Recommended Reading,” F & SF , September 1954, p.92.
  6. Jump up^ “Book Reviews”,New Worlds, February 1956, p.128

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *