Aldiss, a British writer known here chiefly for science fiction ( The Malacia Tapestry ), has written a strange, often moving novel with distinct echoes of Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey. In the framing prologue and epilogue, an American academic decides to examine the histories of the victims of an IRA bombing at an English seaside hotel to see if there was any significant relationship between them and their fate. Aldiss scrutinizes several disparate lives in detail, in what is in effect a series of novellas. Ray and Ruby Tebbutt live in genteel poverty in Norfolk, struggling to retrieve a loan they could not afford to make. Through their story, and those of their socially conscious daughter Jenny and Ruby's mother, three generations of English social life are skillfully sketched, including the impact on the nation of the nuclear disarmament movement and Thatcherite economics. Another tale concerns a rootless Czech, a small-time film director, and his casual involvement with an Irish arms smuggler who comes to be the cause of his death. Lastly comes the tale of Dominic Mayor, born in the refugee limbo at the end of WW II, who becomes a British millionaire through stock manipulation, and his desperate marriage to a tormented Scottish heiress. Each story is thoroughly absorbing and convincing as related in Aldiss's spare but telling prose, though the links between them are somewhat contrived and mechanical. As a thoughtful tale of the surpassing strangeness beneath the obvious surfaces of contemporary life, however, this is a compelling novel. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/28/1993 Release date: 07/01/1993 Genre: Fiction
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