By an author generally considered on this side of the Atlantic a science fiction writer, this novel, originally published in Britain 10 years ago and cited by Anthony Burgess as one of the 99 best novels since 1939, is quite a discovery. One of those rarities, a novel of ideas that is also eminently readable, it centers on Tom Squire, a British cultural historian with a successful TV series on the significance of pop culture. Scenes alternate between Squire's private life, which is falling apart, and a brilliantly depicted cultural conference in Sicily in which he plays a leading role. Aldiss uses the conference to lampoon cultural and political clashes between East and West (somewhat outdated today but still entertainingly realized), and even throws in a superb set piece about the literary role of science fiction. There's a beautifully evoked and moving English country Christmas, some startling and bloody action in postwar Yugoslavia, a rueful romance, an abundance of wit and intelligence. Squire's personality remains slightly elusive, though he's always eloquently thoughtful, and his troubles with his wife are never entirely convincing; but these are the only blemishes on a virtuoso performance. It's difficult to believe that no one previously thought a potential U.S. readership existed for so unusual a book. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990 Release date: 01/01/1990 Genre:
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.