Cryptozoic by Brian Aldiss

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Cryptozoic - Brian Aldiss

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Cryptozoic (1967) is an early Brain Aldiss book, written in the height of the 'new wave' of British SF, when demonstrating how clever you were as an author seemed to be important. It's an interesting read, not because it's very good (it isn't) but because it manages to be both intriguing and dreadful in almost equal measure. Algis Budrys certainly didn't like it when in his review upon release described it as "a useless book". However, for the first three fifths of the novel (or thereabouts) it is engaging, well-written, and follows an intrinsically interesting and novel take on time travel, and out relationship with time.

At the start we follow the time travelling adventures of an artist, called Bush. The concept here is that time travel can be accomplished with the mind - when properly trained and with the help of drugs - such that one can travel down time with the entropy gradient, which is easier the farther you go (such as to the Jurassic period) but is much harder closer to the current time. When 'mind-travelling' one can see the world and explore it, but not really touch or interact with it. Bush lives for a few years in both the Devonian and Jurassic, before returning to his present day, in 2093. This is where the book takes a turn for the worse.

Upon returning to the 'present day' Bush discovers that Britain is now under control of a totalitarian dictatorship. The book then morphs into a 'thriller' of one man against the state. This could be fine, but Aldiss then throws out a further idea - that time actually travels backwards, and that humans only see it going forwards due to some form of mental conditioning. Aldiss spends a long time describing how this can be, without ever making the idea seem anything other than patently absurd.

Finally, when we've about given up on the idea the book might have any merit, Aldiss finishes with a coda that's a complete cop-out. The author himself noted this is "A novel that did not entirely hatch, the parts being better than the whole". I would tend to agree, though I'd be a little less charitable. The 'mind-travel' idea is really good and would support a very good novel. It's a shame he didn't write that book, as opposed to following up on additional and very silly ideas that ultimately comprised the book. One cannot help wondering if this was a case of an artistic novelist trying to write on a science subject of which he had very little grasp. I've been a big fan of Aldiss over the years, and he's written some very good work, but if you've not read him much, don't start here; try Greybeard, Hothouse or Non-Stop first.
 
Nice review, Bick. Gotta say i love those old style SF covers. :)

I've only read one of the Helliconia books and i enjoyed what i read, but found the pacing difficult and never finished it. I want to give Non-Stop a go as that seems particularly interesting
 
Nice review, Bick. Gotta say i love those old style SF covers. :)

I've only read one of the Helliconia books and i enjoyed what i read, but found the pacing difficult and never finished it. I want to give Non-Stop a go as that seems particularly interesting

Ive read Non-Stop and like it.:cool:
 
Yeah, the Generation ship trope seems to have lost favour in recent times, but i think that it makes for great stories.
 
Yeah, the Generation ship trope seems to have lost favour in recent times, but i think that it makes for great stories.

Other books ive read by him Dracula Unbound and The Malachi Tapestry both of which I also liked. :cool:

By him I also recommend Galactic Empires volume I and II edit by Brain Aldiss. He did a great job of selecting stores for the two books.:cool:
 
It's an interesting read, not because it's very good (it isn't) but because it manages to be both intriguing and dreadful in almost equal measure.
Oh Dear! I just picked this up in a second hand book shop for £1. Since it was part of the SF Masterworks series I thought it must be reasonably good.

Different cover picture on my copy.
 
It turned out that this is another book that I had forgotten I'd already read before. I realised only when it got into the second silly half. I have to agree with @Bick about the hubris and the muddled ideas. The concept of the Time Travel by using the mind - was this meant as a religious abstraction? - Early Hominids turned it off when there overmind took control of their undermind? If so, why did it need Handwavium in the form of Crytozoic Acid to achieve it? Time going backwards was just pure nonsense? It was like he threw a lot of ideas together that didn't mix, realised they didn't work, and so wrote a second ending where none of it really happened anyway.

I understood neither the incest part nor the Breedale part? Was the incest between Edward and his mother? Who are this Bush family in Breedale in relation to Edward? The daughter, Joan Bush, married the new manager of the shop that the company had installed. Was he also called Bush? If not, did she not take his surname of marriage, and if not then why not? Or was she actually his mother? Were there other siblings that didn't die? Is it back in Breedale that where the incest comes into play? But then supposedly it wasn't meant to make any sense (which it doesn't) as it was all his mental hallucinations anyway?
 
I'm conflicted by Aldiss, I've read the Helliconia trilogy and enjoyed it but the only other I've read from him is Frankenstein Unbound and I felt it left me as cold as the cadavers used to make the monster.
 

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