The Saliva Tree by Brian Aldiss

Nozzle Velocity

Well-Known Member
Jul 14, 2018
Dallas, TX, USA

After a few decades, I finally re-read "The Saliva Tree", Brian Aldiss's homage to H. G. Wells. This novella, first appearing in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Nov 1965), seamlessly combines many elements of the first few years of the Wells canon. The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, even The Wonderful Visit - all are given their nods at times and appear subtly woven into the story. Set in Norfolk in 1895, the characters display a convincing spectrum of Victorian habits and manners, none of which protects them from the gross, physical world of Aldiss's twisted imagination. Just when you think events are spiraling into full blown horror, Aldiss pulls the lens back and allows his young protagonist, layabout Gregory Rolles, to observe and influence events through his humanistic, scientific, and newly minted socialist world views. All the while, Rolles continues to maintain correspondence with his socialist friend, Mr. Wells, who resides in Woking...

I don't recall Aldiss doing this type of thing very often - if at all. Michael Moorcock, of course, built a stellar career on the art of the homage. Whether it's E. R. Eddison, ERB, or French fin de siecle, he seems to have covered the gamut over the years. His examination of the colonial, Edwardian era scientific romance with Oswald Bastable is great fun, but it has the bones of his multiverse showing through if you look closely enough. Meanwhile, six years before Moorcock's The Warlord of the Air, Brian Aldiss was pitch perfect and utterly convincing with his pace and prose in "The Saliva Tree". It was well worth its Nebula Award and well worth tracking down for anyone interested in Wells, steampunk, horror, or just the occasional homage done brilliantly.


None The Wiser
Jul 24, 2003
I think all I've read by him is A Tupolev Too Far and the Helliconia trilogy but Aldiss really is a writer I need to read more of...

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