Common Clay: Twenty Odd Stories

Brian W. Aldiss, Author
Brian W. Aldiss, Author St. Martin's Press $24.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-13948-3
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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The stories here, most of which are reprints, are ""20 odd"" in both meanings of the term: there are actually 23 tales, and each one is given the inimitable, idiosyncratic Aldiss spin (seen in Somewhere East of Life, 1994, etc.). Certain commonalties run through the entries, which date back to 1978, and brief bridges of commentary connect them, as well. References to The Tempest (the artful ""Else the Isle with Calibans""), Antigone (""A Dream of Antigone"") and Paul Gauguin (featured in the epiphanic closing tale, ""Her Toes were Beautiful on the Mountain"") recur. Images associated with the feminine, such as the moon, are also prominent, with one of the characters longing for ""the female part of myself, the anima I've denied all my life."" The need to merge the yin and the yang is key to this book, the centerpiece of which, ""The God Who Slept with Women,"" concerns a young girl who finds herself impregnated with a being everyone assumes to be a sleeping deity. Aldiss challenges the normal presumptions and conventions of the genre. Infrequently, as in ""The Mistakes, Miseries, and Misfortunes of Mankind,"" his proselytizing devotion may leave readers nonplussed, but the high tenor and quality of most of the stories here mark this as the most rewarding literary SF collection of the year to date. (Mar.)
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