Science Fiction: Ten Explorations

By C. N. Manlove | Go to book overview

4

Brian Aldiss, Hothouse
(1962)

To his friend Frederik Pohl Brian Aldiss owes the first publication in the US of his science fiction. 1 His work has much of the astringency of Pohl's, and like him he is an expert in the finely-tuned short story of which he has similarly published about as many collections as novels — though with Aldiss both types have been produced throughout his career. But his imagination is on the whole much freer than Pohl's — where Pohl will carefully document the physical changes necessary to turn a man into a cyborg capable of survival in the bleak environment of Mars, Aldiss will create aliens who live happily in their own excrement, or a fantastic vision of the end-time world of Earth or of travel into the remote past. Aldiss, like Clifford Simak, who was also brought up in a rural environment, loves the portrayal of landscapes, 2 where the environment of Pohl's work and of much science fiction tends to be urban or a construct. (In Non-Stop (1958) Aldiss turns a star-ship into a jungle.) Much of Aldiss's work, like Pohl's, is satiric: but the objects of his satire are less particular, more philosophic — not the power of advertising, the dangers of scientific meddling, the perils of consumerism, the menace of racial prejudice, but rather the divided psyche of modern man from which these spring. Most of his novels have been relatively short and have involved the activities of technological man on this planet: his recent 'Helliconia' novels — Helliconia Spring (1982) and Helliconia Summer (1983) are lengthy parts of an unfolding epic of life on a remote planet in which man as we understand him has little place. But in their relative primitivism and sense of nature's strength these Helliconia novels mark a return to the idiom of Aldiss's strange and powerful Hothouse.

Aldiss has tended to view his Hugo award-winning Hothouse as a changeling in his work, 'a novel from which I always feel distanced'. 3 What is certain is that the jungle landscape of the

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