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Bookworm 2012: Oui Stop

Posted on | January 7, 2013 | No Comments

Brian W. Aldiss - Non-StopWhat started as an excursion into generation-starship waters became a full blown binge. Despite this being one of my favourite tropes, I missed quite a few of the classics, and so decided to do some archaeology. I started from what most sources agreed was the definitive (though not first) lost generation ship novel, Brian W. Aldiss’ Non-Stop.

The novel starts off simply, aboard an obviously multi-generation starship wherein society deteriorated to the level of primitive hunter-gatherer tribes eking out a miserable existence in the tangle of ‘ponics gone out of control, warring with each other over the few “natural” resources available, with the nature of the world lost in legends wrapped around an odd religion based on a mishmash of psychotherapy. Our hero Roy Complain joins a gang of rebels that decide to try and explore the world in search of the legendary “control room”.

What struck me most at first was how the writing did not seem too dated – it did contain an odd reference or two, but otherwise it could have been written recently, up to the point when our intrepid heroes start to discover the underlying nature of the ship (and that, in itself, is not the big discovery, so no spoilers here – Aldiss doesn’t dilly-dally with letting us and the characters know what’s up). However, as soon as technology enters the picture, and with it, a technologically more advanced band of humans on a different deck, the age of the novel suddenly bursts through the writing and starts poking the reader in the brain. Remarkably, this is not merely due to the retro-futuristic technology, or the sudden shift between describing a primitive tribal society versus a technologically more advanced one, it also shines through in some of the characters that seem to shed their third dimension and start behaving very cardboardy, degrading the book from an enjoyable adventure to a mere historical curiosity with a rather unbelievable extra twist.

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  • Goodreads

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