Books: Bleak Futures Begin at Home John Clute Discovers Pathos in a Portrait of the Writer as an Old Fart; Trajectories by Julian Rathbone Gollancz, Pounds 16.99, 288pp
Clute, John, The Independent (London, England)
USUALLY, ONE does not tell the ending first. But there is little point in observing the niceties with Trajectories. This is a novel which the unforewarned reader could easily discard half-finished as a piece of bad science fiction, of the sort often produced by "literary" writers who can't be bothered to work out how the task is done.
Though the body of the text is set in 2035, in an England tumbling down to ruin, Trajectories is not in fact an SF novel at all. This is a parody of all those literary SF novels. The whole story, we grasp, is a manuscript written in 1998 by Thomas Somers, an ageing writer in poor health and out of sorts with modern life. This makes up the bulk of the book. Its failure to bring to life an England in decline is not Rathbone's failure, but Somers's.
Somers is a mumpsimus, an old fart. His fears for 2035 are the fears of a man already out of touch with his own time. Like SF novelists of an earlier generation, he envisages a future England dominated by a central government which exercises total control over information; lets loose the militia on ethnics; restricts travel, and so on. …