Literature - 11.11.19

11th November 2019

Our topic was ’Science Fiction’ — Not everyone’s favourite and our numbers were a bit depleted.

Chris read ‘Hothouse’ by Brian Aldiss. Chris got into science fiction when he was a teenager and bought this paperback (3/6d) when he was at school. Brian Aldiss’ 2nd novel is set a billion years in the future when the Earth has stopped turning, the sun has started its dying process and is much hotter, turning the lit side of the Earth into a hothouse. Humans have evolved into tiny green skinned people living in the branches of a vast tree covering most of the hothouse area. Only a tiny number of other animals are left, their place being taken by a vast variety of flying, walking, tunnelling, carnivorous plants. On the verge of extinction, the humans struggle against huge odds. Aldiss' writing is highly inventive and lyrical although, at times a little overpowering.

Jim read HG Wells and Jules Verne when he was young, but found ’The Second Sleep’ by Robert Harris. A superb writer, more usually known for his brilliant historical imaginings, Harris brings us parallel universes and a world out of sync. 800 years in the future, a priest looks back to the past where humans have set up an Ark, to save the race from a range of apocalyptic scenarios. The Church has banned history, fearing that it will be too upsetting. An intriguing book, involving murder and romance but, for Jim, an unsatisfactory ending.

Billed as ‘Britain’s No. 1 Science Fiction Author’, Rob Boffard wrote Sharon’s choice, ‘Zero G’ (None of us had heard of him!) The middle of a three book series, Zero G is set in a future after a nuclear war with everyone living in a giant space station. In an area of the satellite known as ‘The Cave’ (a notorious as a crime-ridden no-go area) the heroine of the novel is a Stomper - a member of the law-enforcement team who must stop the spread of a deadly virus threatening to wipe out the population,. In another strand, the ‘Earthers’ believe the Earth is now habitable again. Sounds quite fun but Sharon says it is not well written.

Pat read, ‘The War of the Worlds’ by H G Wells. (and previously enjoyed, ‘The Day of the Triffids’ and ‘The Kraken Awakes’ by John Wyndham). She was impressed by the writing and has vowed to read more H G Wells. Written in 1895, The War of the Worlds was the archetype for the boom in science fiction books in the 20th century. What is thought to be a meteorite lands near Woking but is in reality an artificial cylinder that disgorges Martians. In a part of the country familiar to Pat, the huge tripod war machines with their death rays seem set to conquer the earth, producing panic and fleeing refugees. After ghastly carnage, the Martians finally succumb to a human disease that wipes them out. (Wikipedia tells me that Wells, not only interested in science and evolution, was also concerned about the effects of European colonialism bringing death and disease to indigenous peoples, such as in Tasmania.)

Miriam decided she wanted to read ‘something more up to date’ and asked her son, who recommended Iain Banks or William Gibson. She settled on a book of short stories, ’Burning Chrome’ by William Gibson. These are stories about people who go in for ‘body modification’, which Miriam found confusing! Published in the 1990s and set ‘in the near future’ (presumably, like now?) people are living in ‘balloons’ tethered to the earth. Stories concern computer-hacking to bring down big business and body modifications, such as a powerful exoskeleton, cheap artificial eyes, and teeth transplanted from a Rotweiller (Ew!). There is even a man who has been modified to store data. Miriam found it funny!

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