Somewhere East of Life

Brian W. Aldiss, Author
Brian W. Aldiss, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $22.95 (391p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0074-5
Reviewed on: 08/01/1994
Release date: 08/01/1994
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Completing the loose series that Aldiss calls the ``Squire Quartet'' (Life in the West; Forgotten Life; Remembrance Day), this rather discursive, near-future tale follows the wanderings of Roy Burnell, a British architectural historian. Ten years of Burnell's memories are stolen by EMV (``e-mnemonicvision'') thieves in Budapest, and while he tries to resume his life he also searches for a copy of the memory ``bullet'' that will restore his lost years. His desultory search, broken up by unsought adventure in Central Asia, carries Burnell through an early-21st century world in which life appears very familiar, though many of our current troubles (ethnic wars, poor economies) persist or have gotten worse. The plot is perfunctory, but plot is rarely Aldiss's strong suit or point. What's really offered here is a witty, well-observed travelogue that reveals the state of the world, as well as a fascinating exploration of character. A fin-de-siecle atmosphere pervades; Burnell and those he meets ruminate on the nature of memory and personality, history and human nature, the ``moral emptiness'' of modern times and their compensatory pleasures. Aldiss weaves these thoughts into a delightful and sometimes harrowing story, proving once again that science fiction can illuminate vital matters of the present as effectively as any genre. (Aug.)
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