Greybeard and the writing style of Brian Aldiss

A while back, I posted a short commentary on Aldiss’ brilliant Hothouse. Apparently, I was a few small steps ahead of the publishing world, because Penguin Modern Classics has just reprinted it and I even saw it in Waterstones’ “Hidden Gems” section.

More recently, I picked up Aldiss’ Greybeard hoping for more out there sci-fi wackiness. I bought my copy for a pittance on eBay, which I have found is really a great way to buy obscure and underrated books. Greybeard isn’t as interesting as Hothouse, but it’s a pretty solid read nonetheless. It has a similar premise to the movie Children of Men, but takes the idea further. The pace of the book is a little slow, unfortunately, and some of the chapters feel superfluous, but there are some fine episodes.

I’ve read what are generally considered to be Aldiss’ finest books and have noticed some common themes. If you want to write engaging, fun, but dated science fiction like Aldiss’, you could follow these steps:

  • Make your hero male, but give him a female companion;
  • Your hero should be naive or even ignorant, yet curious and basically intelligent;
  • Send him on a journey through the strange landscape of a primative world;
  • Except make it so that the primative world is actually the Earth of the future;
  • Introduce mysterious creatures which appear to pose a threat;
  • The twist is these mysterious creatures are actually humans of the future.
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