The Secret of this Book is unconventional even for an Aldiss collection. Many of the stories are inter-related, their themes being life, death, transformation. A linking commentary between stories shows how such themes are explored in storytelling – and, in one of the most amusing links, how a story may be stretched out until long after bedtime.
The stories almost become chapters in a long, curious novel, sometimes domestic, as in the tense ‘Making My Father Read Revered Writings’, sometimes startling and horrific, as in ‘Horse Meat’ – a vision that turns Heroic Fantasy upside down. Here are the disastrous human traits that make life hell, as in ‘The Mistakes, Miseries and Misfortunes of Mankind’. Here too are designs for a happier state of existence, in ‘Three Moon Enigmas’ and ‘Her Toes Were Beautiful on the Mountains’.
FIRST EDITION: Harper Collins, 1995