An Exile on Planet Earth (book, Brian Aldiss, 2012)

From SFX #220.

Three and a half stars

Author: Brian Aldiss

Publisher: Bodleian Library

Ex-child star’s woes meet utopian plot

Aldiss is a grand old man of SF. He’s been there through the tail end of the short story magazine era, into the New Wave, and on to the digital now. And he’s still writing. He’s the author of one of my favourite books to boot – Non-Stop.

In An Exile on Planet Earth, a collection of miscellanea, you’ll find out that Non-Stop was a big hit in Communist era Poland, along with much else.

Alan Yentob’s introduction slightly seedily offers the prospect of emotional pain. That is not what one receives. Aldiss is of the old breed, his upper lip only unstiffens for a wry smile. His mother hated him, apparently. He dealt with it. He did not get on with his father. He dealt with that too. He used these hurts in his writings, and that’s that. This is a mellow read, a thoughtful look back over a life well lived by a man who understands himself.

This is granddad talking in the pub. He rambles here and there, but it is wise stuff, old man stuff, and damn it, we should listen to old men.

Only the lengthy episode on Yugoslavian churches didn’t tickle our fancy, a bit like someone else’s holiday photos. His words glow when he’s discussing Solzhenitsyn, Wells, and Hardy, or when he’s declaiming his passion for science and art. It’s short, and £19.99 is a high price, hence the mark. Add another half star if you’re a big fan.

Did you know?

Aldiss – who was born in 1925 – served in Burma and India in the aftermath of World War II.


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