This collection of short stories from the latter half of the 1960s demonstrates both Aldiss’s craft and art as a writer. The stories are science fiction (in the broadest sense of the term – many of them demonstrating the exploration of inner space that exemplifies the so-called New Wave that centred around Moorcock’s New Worlds magazine), yet they are highly literate. The writing is polished and intelligent. It shares space with some of Ballard’s work.
Technically the stories explore language and form without being self-consciously ‘experimental’, particularly so in ‘Orgy Of The Living And The Dying’ which is reminiscent of his novel Report On Probability A. They treat the reader as an intelligent being capable of appreciating subtlety and the jumps in narrative. They are also imaginative, displaying both a social awareness and a dry wit.
A third of the book is taken up with three linked stories that explore (at different periods of time) the consequences of a virus that infects animals with immortality. Others explore the consequences of artificial intelligence (‘Super-Toys Last All Summer Long’ and ‘Working In The Spaceship Yards’), and others introduce meta-narratives where the boundaries between the creation and its creator are blurred or dissolved.
All in all a fascinating and entertaining collection with stories that stay in the mind, slowly evolving, long after the covers of the book are closed.