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Gillespie by J MacDougall Hay

Canongate, 1983, 450 p.

Gillespie cover

This novel was first published in 1914 – not a good time to make a debut – and was all but forgotten for the next fifty or so years. When it was reprinted in 1979 it was hailed in some quarters as if it was some sort of lost classic, compared to The House with the Green Shutters, with which it has some thematic similarities. Alasdair Gray describes Gillespie as having “the worst first chapter that ever introduced a novel worth reading.” The chapter is indeed overwrought, and overwritten, but lasts less than two pages.

The book’s subject, Gillespie Strang, is born under a bad sign. Literally. In an inn whose emblem is a dagger striking down. His mother fears all the male Strangs are doomed. This premonition haunts the book but not Gillespie himself. He is the type of man who might be described as a bad lot. On the make, sly and avaricious, tight with his money, he starts off trapping rabbits on others’ land, swiftly moves on and up, proposes to a local girl to cement a business deal with her father – a deal which condemns a neighbour to penurious widowhood – grows to be a power in the town, the fishing village Brieston, based on Hay’s boyhood home, Tarbert, on Loch Fyne. Structured over four books the novel describes Gillespie’s rise and rise through his and his family’s eyes and those of some of his neighbours. Herring fishing, its ups and downs, is a large presence in the early books; weather, storms and drought, a counterpoint to the tale. All are grist to Gillespie’s acquisitive mill.

Gillespie is a very Scottish novel and has that Calvinist intertwining of the religious with the everyday that pervades Scottish literature and even now, despite the decline in religious observance and belief, affects the Scottish character. Predestination hangs over Gillespie Strang like the striking dagger above the inn. Hay was a Church of Scotland minister, so this flavouring is unsurprising. A key phrase is the Biblical quote, “God is not mocked,” that the widowed Mrs Galbraith pins to her door after her eviction due to Gillespie’s dealings with his future father-in-law. It isn’t perhaps a book you would recommend as an introduction to Scottish writing, it is of its time – or perhaps earlier – and its casual references to “the Jew” who pawns items for the locals jar nowadays. And the overwriting too present in chapter one also plagues the book. There is a glossary at the back but not all the Scots expressions used in the novel can be found there. Yet let it wash over you; in most cases the sense will come through.

The viewpoint characters are complex and individual. One of them claims Scottish exceptionalism, “We are the land that barred out the Romans; the land that has pride without insolence; courage without audacity; blood with condescension.” While Mrs Galbraith reflects on the state of women, “They compromised themselves, not out of vice, but simply to please men, who take advantage,” “A woman will sacrifice everything, even life itself, which often is a slow martyrdom, to satisfy the claims of her family,” she herself plans to degrade Gillespie’s wife as a means to repay him the wrongs he has done her.

In an introduction (which, like most such, should not be read till after the book itself) Bob Tait and Isobel Murray say, “The English novel characteristically limits itself to issues more domestic than the Scots.” The strength of the English novel, “lies in analysis of individual, family or group relationships, of individual psychology, or in forms of novels of manners. Gillespie like other Scots novels, has a wider scope. To find similar scope and ambition we have to go to the Russian or American novel where matters political, social, philosophical and metaphysical are more commonly treated.” They explicitly compare it to Moby Dick in its “relentless questioning of the universe and the source and nature of evil.”

To modern tastes Gillespie as a novel might appear overcooked. Its roots lie in Victorian literature; there are reminders of Thomas Hardy in its grimmer scenes, of Dickens in its length and list of characters. It describes a rural/remote Scotland on the cusp of the modern age – a Scotland that has long gone – but reminds us that human nature is unchanging.

Alasdair Gray’s summation of Gillespie is that it is “good, but not throughout.” I’d go along with that.

Psycho Shop by Alfred Bester and Roger Zelazny

Vintage, 1998, 207 p.

Psycho Shop cover

Both these authors have a venerable Science Fiction pedigree. Bester was an undoubted star of the 1950s with Zelazny coming to prominence in the next decade. In their respective primes they rarely if ever disappointed. In his introduction to the book Greg Bear refers to them both as SF jazz greats, whirling in like golden dust-devils, blowing new tunes in new styles and tempos. He also explains how the book came to exist, Zelazny being offered the opportunity to complete one of Bester’s unfinished stories. (By Psycho Shop’s publication date both authors were deceased. So it goes.)

The premise is suitably mind boggling, involving as it does a tethered black hole, a channel between universes which can change people’s mental attributes. A black hole which has been stolen from the future.

Alf Noir (who is really Paul Jensen but we don’t know that till later) is on assignment from Rigadoon magazine to investigate the Black Place of the Soul-Changer in Rome, and the mysterious man called Adam Maser associated with it. While Alf is there a certain Edgar Poe turns up to utilise the device. He is told an L v Beethoven, and a Lucy Borgia have also. One of the clients is from a culture where everyone’s speech is inflected. Not all in the same way but in this case every fourth word. Another has a $hoping li$t utilising chemical symbols. Elsewhere in the book we meet Bertrand Russell and Mother Shipton, who scries by aggression.

In parts this reads like the wilder imaginings of R A Lafferty whom Bear surprisingly does not mention in his introduction. A character’s alias is Etaoin Shrdlu – the most common letters in written English. In one chapter the text employs diagrams and drawings. Clones hang in a cupboard ready to be popped into at a moment’s notice.

Bizarrely – or not, as this is a Bester/Zelazny book – poetry is referenced several times. In his persona as Alf, another character refers to Noir/Jensen as the sacred river. And the whole thing hangs on a canto by Ezra Pound.

Noir/Jensen can be considered as a variation on the Francis Sandow of Zelazny’s Isle of the Dead and To Die in Italbar but Psycho Shop is really a magnificently bonkers one–off. No spoiler really as the joy here is the journey but the black hole is revealed as a means to smuggle information past the Big Crunch and the new Bang.

Great stuff but not one for those unused to SF, though.

Pedant’s corner. Unfortunately the text is prone to USianisms. In 1940s London they meet an RAF major. In the RAF there is no such rank. They do however have Squadron Leaders. The said major also claims to be “shipping out.” That would be being posted.

Le Bal by Irène Némirovsky

Chivers, 2008, 142 p. Translated from the French by Sandra Smith.

Le Bal cover

The good lady noticed this (very) large print book in a local library. As every Némirovsky I have read so far has been excellent I immediately borrowed it. This is a thin volume with very large print but still contains two novellas.

Le Bal © Éditions Bernard Grasset, 1930.
Catholic Rosine Kampf is a selfish would-be social climber with a less than reputable past. Her husband Alfred (a Jew who converted on marriage) made a sudden killing in currency dealings to transform their fortunes. Rosine now sees this as her time and sets out to exploit it. They have a fourteen year old daughter, Antoinette, who is straining on the verge of adulthood. As her mother does nothing but scold and deride her Antoinette harbours intense feelings of dislike and frustration. All this has ramifications for the ball (Le Bal of the title) Rosine is planning to hold to lever up the Kampfs’ place in society. In a story as short as this characterisation could be problematic but Rosine is well drawn, as is Antoinette, and Alfred shows that greater degree of indulgence fathers often have towards daughters.

Snow in Autumn © Éditions Bernard Grasset, 1931 as Les Mouches d’automne.
This is another of Némirovsky’s tales of Russian émigrés covering the years just before and after the cataclysm of the Revolution. The viewpoint is that of Tatiana Ivanovna, the aristocratic Karine family’s nanny. In a statement redolent of the pre-war times she reminds her employer, “You know very well that cockroaches are a sign of a wealthy household.”
Left behind to look after the house when the older family members fled to Odessa, she witnesses the murder of the Karines’ son, Youri, in the revolutionary takeover and then treks after them with their jewels sewn into her skirts. Later, in exile in Paris, she tries to uphold standards that seem pointless to people who have lost everything, who are “like flies in autumn” as the French title has it.

There was one curious piece of translation where the description sleeping room (rather than bedroom?) was used.

Like all Némirovsky’s fiction the two stories in Le Bal do not disappoint.

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Scholastic, 2002, 295 p.

Mortal Engines cover

For a thousand years cities have been mobile, traversing the dried up land in search of smaller urban entities to consume. This system is known as Municipal Darwinism and apparently has a set of rules. (There are, though, pirate towns which disregard these.) There is, too, an Anti-Traction League, settled towns safe in Asia behind an impregnable wall. The League has agents who work against the Traction towns.

Reeves has some fun with his premise. Panzerstadt-Bayreuth is a wonderful name for a predatory city, as is Tunbridge Wheels for a smaller ambulatory town. The text is also peppered with adapted phrases such as, “a rolling town gathers no moss,” with a curious emphasis on Hull; “like a bat out of Hull,” “Bloody Hull!”

Tom Natsworthy is a lowly member of the Guild of Historians in London, in thrall to the principles of Municipal Darwinism. His encounter with his – and London’s – hero, Chief Historian Valentine, draws him into a series of adventures after he witnesses an attempt on Valentine’s life by a mutilated young girl, Hester Shaw. In the aftermath both he and Hester are thrown out of London – Hester by her own hand, Tom at another’s – on the so-called Hunting Ground, forced together by this circumstance. In typical children’s book fashion both Hester and Tom are children (young adults here) who have lost their parents. By contrast the other main narrative focus in the book – apart from Valentine – is his daughter Katherine; but she has lost her mother.

Told in a mixture of past and present tenses, the book tracks the evolution of Tom’s and Katherine’s awareness of Valentine’s character (Hester was never in doubt) and even the principles of Municipal Darwinism itself – all among a welter of airships, men resurrected as machines, bullying pirates with pretensions to civility, and rediscovered weapons. As with many a Young Adult novel the pace is relentless, the pages incident packed.

Throw aside any notions of doubt about how a predatory system such as the Municipal Darwinism portrayed here could last for a hundred – never mind a thousand – years and also any quibbles about the level of characterisation (London’s Mayor, Magnus Crome, is a little one dimensional,) the piling on of incident and an occasional lack of subtlety. Broad brush strokes are arguably necessary in YA fiction. Mortal Engines is totally engaging, while still carrying the monitory subtext that appearance and demeanour are no clue to underlying character.

Pedants corner: Reeves has the resurrected man named the Shrike tune his ultra-red sensors. This turns out to be a heat-seeing system. That would be infra-red, below red, then; ultra-red, beyond or above red, is just plain green (in terms of primary colours) – or at a pinch, orange.

The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway

Vintage, 2010?* 236 p. First published 1989.

 The Trick is to Keep Breathing cover

Janice Galloway’s much lauded first novel, The Trick is to Keep Breathing, relates the adult experiences of a woman who is/was a teacher but also worked in a bookmaker’s and whose life started to unravel when the man she was living with (another woman’s husband) drowned. In the main body of the novel the narrator is an anorexic and self-harmer unable to talk about her situation. “We are veering into the difficult territory of how things are.” She is recommended by a psychiatrist to enter hospital. The doctors she meets are so indistinguishable she thinks of them as numbers; Drs One, Two and Three. In the hospital, “Most of (the rules) work on the landmine principle: they just let you loose till you trip on one of them.”

Partly to suggest her skittish mental state the text is non-linear, full of lists, repeated phrases, unconventional typography (one whole page has nothing but the word “oops” just over halfway down,) dialogue that is not indicated by quotation marks – but in interviews with health workers is rendered as in the text of a play – and has sentences that break off somewhere in

In addition wide margins allow the occasional insertion of (repeated) words or phrase fragments. This is almost in the style of Alasdair Gray’s marginal notes but here really add nothing to the novel but I suppose are again indicative of mental state.

Prior to the – unnamed; at least, I can’t recall one – narrator’s hospital admission (the doctor) “gave me pills to tide me over when I got anxious. I got anxious when they didn’t tide me over into anything different. He gave me more pills.” Later; “Maybe the pills know the answer. I doubt it but I have no proof.” Some time later she looks in a mirror. “But what looks back is never what I want. Someone melting. And too much like me.” She also avers, “Persistence gets me every time. I haven’t got any.”

She is prone to noting things like,
“This the Way Things Are.
This is What Passes For Now.”

She realises, “There’s no fucking point is there?” and eventually that the difference between her and other people is minding. They don’t mind they don’t know what the point is.

In sum The Trick is to Keep Breathing is neither a comfortable nor an easy read. As an examination of a fragmenting psyche and the incomprehension and indignities it suffers it’s illuminating, though.

Pedants corner: The text refers to a fifth form romance – in Scotland we say fifth year. We had a “sunk” count of one, “‘What are supposed to come here for?’ I said,” “He sat me down and said looked serious,” an “is” for “if,” attracive, an “it’s” for “its,” and “too neat and know” which no matter how I tried I just could not parse.

*The book states “published by Vintage 1999” but at the back has an advert for the same author’s 2003 novel Clara so must be a later reprint.

Odin’s Son by Susan Price

Simon and Schuster, 2008, 243 p.

Odin’s Son cover

This “Young Adult” book was in the book sale section at my local library. The good lady suggested I read it to see “what is getting published now.” It wasn’t till I’d finished it I realised it was the third in a trilogy. (To avoid spoilers I hadn’t looked at the back cover blurb.)

The trilogy aspect perhaps accounts for the lack of explanation in Odin’s Son of the system of indenture which underpins part of the narrative. The indentured, known as bonders, are legally sub-human, and – on Earth – are treated as if they were in fact actually less endowed with feeling and sentiment. (This is, of course, the way the privileged always behave towards the less fortunate.)

The book is mainly set on Mars where a religion based on the Norse Gods is in a subordinate position to that of the ancient Greeks. A now-dead bonder woman called Odinstoy had been smuggled up from Earth by another bonder, Affroditey Millington, but their status is in legal limbo. Odinstoy claimed her son, dubbed Odin’s Gift, was fathered by Odin – hence the title – and the story unravels both his fortunes and his true origins. The head of the “Greek” religion has the curious name of Zeuslove Thatcher. Is this to signal he is the baddy?

Remarkably, for 100 pages the novel was unmarked by typos or infelicities of any sort – then we had icanthus for acanthus and things began to run downhill. Price seems to think there is an asteroid belt between Earth and Mars. There may be some asteroids in such orbits, but the belt is usually considered to lie between Mars and Jupiter. An ascension by space elevator is said to be accompanied by “no G-forces, no thrill. Other ships were descending on the other side of the El, and their weight lifted (them) upwards.” From ground level the feeling would be exactly that of ascending by any sort of lift mechanism – most of which are counterbalanced in a comparable manner. Flint is “formed from the skeletons of sea-creatures dissolved in sea water.” If they’ve dissolved they’re no longer skeletons. And material precipitating out from sea water into the spaces the skeletons left is more likely.

While the characterisation can be thin at times (Zeuslove Thatcher) others are drawn more fully – but at least one plot thread is left dangling. Whether Odin’s Son represents a satisfactory conclusion to the trilogy I can’t say but for the most part it worked on its own terms and a late development nibbled at the edge of questioning what it means to be human.

Adrift in the Stratosphere by Prof A M Low

Blackie and Son, 1954? 338 p.

Adrift in the Stratosphere cover

What a strange old beast this is. It was first published in 1937 – and shows it. Its three protagonists are (in one case ex-) public schoolboys who say things like, “I say, you chaps,” “jolly well” and “Rather!” and get through more by luck than expertise. They become adrift in the stratosphere by accidentally taking off in a spaceship that someone has built (in a barn!) where they’d stopped off on a motorbike excursion. The radio on board (wireless set and radio are used interchangeably) can somehow access two week old broadcasts and their diet is provided by “super-vitamin tablets.” “One represents sufficient food for one person for one day. Dissolve in the mouth and swallow slowly.” Parse the last sentence of the quote, if you would.

Their adventures include passing through a belt of X-rays (which allow them to see through each other,) the ship being struck by particles from a passing meteor (without any structural damage,) an encounter with a cloud like stratospheric creature, being attacked by evil Martians (complete with death rays) and meeting a somewhat more benevolent set of comet dwellers. “The speed at which we travel through space sets up an action in the ether which covers us with a gas-like vapour. Your astronomers have fallen into the mistaken belief that we are composed entirely of gas.” The adventures come thick and fast but characterisation is non-existent. Plus the return of the chaps to Earth in the final page is very perfunctorily handled.

For its time I suppose it would have been unexceptional, a Boy’s Own Adventure indeed.

A view of the nice thistle design on the hardcovers ca be found here and that of the internal illustration here.

The author, one Prof A M Low, apparently designed a proto-television system he called Televista (a device of this name, which combines the “principles of television and that of the camera obscura,” appears in the book) but due to the Great War nothing much came of it.

Here Low uses the term stratosphere to describe what would now be called space. Whether that was a common usage in the 1930s I have no idea. He also employs the latter term in its modern sense. And the ship is at least once referred to as falling. In space you wouldn’t notice.

Typos corner (even in the 1950s!) – breath for breathe, noticably for noticeably.

The Moon King by Neil Williamson

NewCon Press , 2014, 338 p.

The Moon King cover

Disclosure. I have known the author for a considerable number of years and he has been writing short stories – and getting them published – for all that time. He is one of nature’s good guys with many strings to his bow. (Strictly that should be lots of keys on his piano.) The Moon King is his first novel.

The book is tinged with subtle touches of Scottishness and is a curious beast, a blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy – with equal facility in both aspects. There is a machine at the heart of the plot but what it controls is strange indeed. Creatures made of water stalk its pages but can be neutralised by scooping the water from them. The world in which it is set has discontinuities with our own but is recognisably Earth-like. Its characters are all too human, though.

The city of Glassholm lies on an island. Its ruler and founder, the seemingly immortal Lunane, saved his followers by somehow tethering the Moon in an orbit that holds it above the city. The Moon’s cycles of day and night are reflected in the city’s calendar – the months are divided into wax days and wane days – and influence not only the people’s moods (Full is a day of abandonment and revelry, the heady behaviour it engenders referred to as Fullishness, Dark a time of mayhem and danger) but also the rate at which decay and rot occur.

Anton Dunn wakes up the day after Full and discovers the Palace staff think he is the Lunane. Gradually he discovers that he has indeed become the face of the Lunane, his mind and body taken over as his engineering expertise is needed. For things are beginning to fall apart on Glassholm. Unprecedentedly, a murder has taken place on Full – and the tethered Moon is beginning to stray. Anton is one of three viewpoint characters, the others are Lottie Blake, an aspiring artist whose overbearing mother is the leader of a religion, and Jonathan Mortlock, former cop and now member of the Palace guard.

Glassholm is populated with well-drawn characters. Even the minor ones feel as if they have an existence beyond the page. Lottie’s Aunt Ruby is an especial delight. This aspect fell down slightly when Dunn ventured beyond the city and met with the remnants of the indigenes the Lunane usurped when he took over the island – but that was the section where fantasy intruded most and it may have been my tendency to look on that less generously which made me feel this. The Lunane’s Palace is refreshingly exotic. Though it inevitably has faint echoes of other large fictional buildings it has a distinctive topography.

Williamson has his characters occasionally employ those impeccably Scottish terms of endearment for, respectively, a woman and a younger man, hen and son. Other artfully deployed Scotticisms were muckle, wersh, skite, puss (pronounced as in bus and meaning a person’s face,) skelped, semmet – (though Williamson spells it simmet, the way it is spoken,) close (for the entrance passageway of a tenement block,) wee, “so it does” at the end of a spoken sentence (though that may be an import from Ireland,) loup, clout for cloth and cried for called or named. The fantastical nature of the story means that many readers will be unaware that he has not just invented these words – as he has others; in SF it’s almost obligatory – but, for a Scot, it’s an unusual delight to see them in such a setting.

The Moon King has the touch of an author with a vision, who knows what he is doing and has the ability both to engage the reader and to create believable characters. If the secret locked below the Lunane’s Palace is a shade too fantastical for my tastes, that doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

At the book launch at Eastercon Neil inscribed my copy, “Please enjoy this Lunacy!” I did, and it isn’t.

Kemlo and the Satellite Builders by E C Eliott

Illustrated by George Craig. Nelson, 1960, 186p.

Kemlo and the Satellite Builders cover

I bought this in a charity shop in Linlithgow. One time I was there they had a swatch of (overpriced) E C Eliott books with wonderfully nostalgic covers – in particular one called Tas and the Postal Rocket. On my next visit most had gone but this one had been brought down from a frankly ridiculous £19.99 to something more reasonable for a book without its dust-jacket. At the same time I bought a Prof A M Low book of similar vintage.

This is perhaps what was once called a juvenile – young adult would be pushing it a bit; it’s definitely not a grown-up kind of tale. Kemlo is a Space Scout, brought up in space on a satellite as part of a quasi-military organisation. Space infants are kept in a nursery looked after by their mothers and nurses. Scouts graduate to their own quarters between the ages of six and nine. The boys’ and girls’ quarters are separate – and this is all we hear of the girls. Despite this apparent distancing and a large degree of control over their own activities the Scouts still have reverence for and defer to their parents who can visit at any time but are mostly absent. Nevertheless Kemlo’s relationship with his father and mother seems not very different from one in a “normal” family.

The story is a farrago of nonsense about the imminent building of a huge satellite mixed in with a rudimentary plot about the extension of the restrictive social arrangements down on Earth up into the space environment. There is also a load of guff about weightlessness and gravity. The station has gravity “rays” and levers which can switch gravity on and off. For some odd reason – unexplained here – the Scouts all have names which begin with K. There are lumps of info dumping and conversations which exist only to outline or advance the plot.

Spookily there is a chief engineer who speaks in Scotticisms. Perhaps Gene Roddenberry read Kemlo books! By the way I’ve still to find the plaque in Linlithgow to Star Trek’s Scotty, the one that says he’ll be born there in 2222 or something. Apparently it’s in Annet House Museum.

Kemlo and the Satellite Builders is firmly of its time in its social and political attitudes but there is something unabashedly optimistic in it. And the illustrations are a retro delight. Not that that redeems its many failures.

Gravity rays! “We get our power by feeding gravity rays across the generator fins of our power units, because we’ve no natural gravity up here.” So: 1) where does the power for the “gravity rays” come from? 2) the generator fins obviously do not generate, they transform, 3) they do have natural gravity, they just won’t notice its effects because they’re in free-fall.
The Scouts are told the new satellite will, “not be in orbit with Earth. It therefore will not spin on its own axis in order for it maintain the velocity necessary to retain it in an orbit.” Satellites do not need to spin to stay in orbit. Simple velocity (linear, not rotational) balancing the attractive force of Earth is enough.
The Satellite is made of uraniametal, “the strongest and lightest substance known to man.” Really? Substitute least dense for lightest and metal for substance and you might get close. Otherwise a kilo of uraniametal will still be 1,000 times heavier than a gram of lead (or a gram of anything come to that.) Oh; and any gas is much, much “lighter” than the equivalent volume of any solid.

When the Blue Shift Comes by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amoro

Gollancz, 2014, 187p

The Member and The Radical cover

“Heigh-ho! It’s time to sing of the ending of time!” is the first sentence of this strange confection. It originated in a failed attempt by Silverberg to write a novel about the end of the universe in “a flamboyant, high-spirited postmodern style, using direct asides to the reader and other little playful … touches.” It comprises two novellas, The Song of Last Things by Silverberg himself and The Last Mandala Sweeps by Alvaro Zinos-Amoro. Sandwiched between them is an introduction to Zinos-Amoro and When the Blue Shift Comes as a whole. In this Silverberg reveals what I had long suspected – that he has more or less given up writing fiction. Only an invitation to a venture where established writers would contribute a novella to a book, to be complemented by another by a protégé, broke this trend. Silverberg didn’t write something new. He dusted off his failed novel.

I have spoken before about Silverberg’s facility with prose and especially first paragraphs. This one continues, “Yes, the death of worlds, the crumbling of the continuum, the great Folding-in of the Gloriously Unfolded.” A lot to live up to you might think.

The story is set in Year 777 of Cycle 888 of the 1,111th Encompassment of the Ninth Mandala. This phrase is repeated so often it becomes engrained in the mind. (Nevertheless, why that “Ninth” is capitalised when the other numbers are not is a mystery.)

Hanosz Prime, ruler of the Parasol system in the Andromeda Nebula is about to undergo his umpteenth regeneration. (While he expects to die at some point, it is a peculiarity of this time that residents of Earth – still human, as is Hanosz, though their physical appearance is not like ours at all and is indeed, mutable – are immortal, provided they don’t spend prolonged periods elsewhere.) A traveller called Zereshk Poloi informs him that the universe is ending. (It turns out that something called a Twisselman hypersingularity – like a black hole but considerably more aggressive and therefore even nastier – is expanding more than exponentially, sucking the Milky Way into itself and threatening the galaxies beyond.)

(The two novellas are full of parenthetical narrator’s inserts like these.)

(Sometimes several follow one upon the other.)

(It gets quite irritating after a while.)

In his prime Silverberg might have been able to bring this sort of thing off with something approaching brio. As it is, and while Zinos-Amaro does bring the project to a more or less coherent conclusion, there is something amiss, the end result is just too silly. It pains me to say this as Silverberg is one of my SF immortals but on this evidence it’s probably as well he has given up the scribbling game. Heigh-ho.

Annoyances corner. We had the Usianism “spit” used as a past tense. It’s so much less pithy and vituperous than “spat.”

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