Brian Aldiss views the drives and achievements, the foibles and failures of mankind from the most wildly imaginative vantage points in his marvellous new collection. ‘A Spot of Konfrontation’ explores a truly bureaucratic world run from Brussels, where the Central E.E. C. administration dispenses everything from a mileage allowance for each person’s travel per year to an international language called SpEEC. In ‘A Space for Reflection’ a five year-old boy achieves galaxy wide fame by winning a curious competition for the best contribution to the fresh direction of mankind. With a prize of unlimited funds to travel, he seeks out countless people on every sort of planet only to discover that the more open his mind is to the whole universe the less able he is to reach any conclusion about it.
The enduring fascination of Brian Aldiss’s fictions is the fresh and unexpected light they throw upon the shadowy regions of man’s nature. In his richly furnished future states and distant landscapes lies revealing evidence of the fears and threats, possibilities and promise that shape human behaviour.
A new collection that contains some well-conceived stories (for instance, ‘The Small Stones of Tu Fu’), but which had less thought devoted to selection than in previous books. This resulted in several of the offerings being rather elderly. The ensemble also had none of the coherence of the more extreme Last Orders.
FIRST EDITION: Jonathan Cape, 1979