Greybeard by Brian Aldiss (1964)

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Greybeard (1964) by Brian Aldiss.

I read this years ago, or tried to but I didnt get it at the time and probably didnt finish it back then. This time however I found it very enjoyable!
Basically its set in about the 2030s, 50 years after a nuclear accident when bombs were set off in space, causing a catastrophic disruption in the Van Allen belts that surround the Earth and protect us from solar radiation.. The 'accident' resulted in this radiation from the sun briefly reaching the Earth, rendering the human ace sterile. At the time the book opens the human race is represented by the elderly, eeking out a living pottering around Oxford and London, looking for, and on guard against, others. There are rumours of new children born but it seems to be all myths perpetuated by deranged old lunatics, or is it?.....

Re-reading after all these year I would heartily recommend this if you are a fan of post-apocalyptic works- in fact I'd go so far as to say this is the best Aldiss book I've read so far!
 
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Fried Egg

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Here's my review:

This is a story of one man's attempt to survive in a post apocalyptic world.

Post apocalyptic stories seem to fall into one of two categories. Either humanity is humbled by some huge disaster that nature has thrown at us or else humanity is the victim of it's own foolishness, a disaster of it's own making. This story falls very much in the latter category.

The nature of the catastrophy is this: An accident whilst nuclear testing in space has somehow raised the radiation level on earth to the extent that it has either sterilized everyone or only allowed horrifically deformed monstrosities to be born which were at first eugenically erradicated and then later fought over as it became apparent that in them lay humanity's only hope for the future. Consequently, society has collapsed and the population is aging with the youngest people being at least 60.

It uses a somewhat tired premise in that humanity has attempted to wield a technology beyond our ability to safely control and which led to our own downfall. Although it is more than that; it is a lament against Aldiss' own age: "It was really the generation before hers that was more to blame, the people who were grown up when she was born, the millions who were adults during the 1960's and 70's. They had known all about war and destruction and nuclear power and radiation and death - it was all second nature to them. But they never renoucned it."

The story's misanthropy goes deeper than that. Our society was so deeply flawed and corrupt that the disaster was almost a blessing, clearing the slate and allowing us to regain our humanity. As one character suggests: "Have you thought of the world we were born in, and what it would have grown into had not that unfortunate little radiation experiment run amok? Would it not have been a world too complex, too impersonal, for the likes of us to flourish in?" He adds: "Is not this rag-taggle present preferable to that other mechanized, organized, deodorized present that we might have found outselves in, simply because in this present we can live on a human scale?"

All in all it is a kind of rambling tale with no conventional form of plot and conclusion to be reached at the end. This is more a mediation on the time and follows a brief transition of Greybeard as he follows his dream. Not much in the way of action but it certainly gives you plenty to think about.
 

TonyHarmsworth

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Yep! Read that last year and reviewed it on here!
Hothouse is one of my all time favourites and I used one of the character's names in my own work - Gren. When I married in the early seventies we were planning to call our children Gren & Poily - only problem - we never had children. LOL.
 

TonyHarmsworth

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Feb 7, 2016
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Here's my review:

This is a story of one man's attempt to survive in a post apocalyptic world.

Post apocalyptic stories seem to fall into one of two categories. Either humanity is humbled by some huge disaster that nature has thrown at us or else humanity is the victim of it's own foolishness, a disaster of it's own making. This story falls very much in the latter category.

The nature of the catastrophy is this: An accident whilst nuclear testing in space has somehow raised the radiation level on earth to the extent that it has either sterilized everyone or only allowed horrifically deformed monstrosities to be born which were at first eugenically erradicated and then later fought over as it became apparent that in them lay humanity's only hope for the future. Consequently, society has collapsed and the population is aging with the youngest people being at least 60.

It uses a somewhat tired premise in that humanity has attempted to wield a technology beyond our ability to safely control and which led to our own downfall. Although it is more than that; it is a lament against Aldiss' own age: "It was really the generation before hers that was more to blame, the people who were grown up when she was born, the millions who were adults during the 1960's and 70's. They had known all about war and destruction and nuclear power and radiation and death - it was all second nature to them. But they never renoucned it."

The story's misanthropy goes deeper than that. Our society was so deeply flawed and corrupt that the disaster was almost a blessing, clearing the slate and allowing us to regain our humanity. As one character suggests: "Have you thought of the world we were born in, and what it would have grown into had not that unfortunate little radiation experiment run amok? Would it not have been a world too complex, too impersonal, for the likes of us to flourish in?" He adds: "Is not this rag-taggle present preferable to that other mechanized, organized, deodorized present that we might have found outselves in, simply because in this present we can live on a human scale?"

All in all it is a kind of rambling tale with no conventional form of plot and conclusion to be reached at the end. This is more a mediation on the time and follows a brief transition of Greybeard as he follows his dream. Not much in the way of action but it certainly gives you plenty to think about.
Good review. It certainly made me think about mortality when I read it and still does. If ever I see a film or TV drama featuring Oxford I immediately think of Aldiss' description of Greybeard's first view of the spires when he arrives there. Your comment "All in all it is a kind of rambling tale with no conventional form of plot and conclusion to be reached at the end" is something I've been trying to weave into a story. I'm not sure that novels have to have an ending. They can be left hanging, leaving the reader to ponder on what path the world will take in a generation of two to come. If you can make people think along those lines you have been as successful as a novelist who has produced a beginning, middle and end to his work.
 
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