Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Brian Aldiss. Last Orders (1979)

     Brian Aldiss. Last Orders (1979) The title story tells of a police captain trying to persuade a couple of people to go to the ship that will take them off Earth to escape the breakup of the Moon. Instead, the three drift into a nostalgia sampling of whiskey and other good things, and semi-aimless conversation about the past. Most of the rest of the book consists of an interrelated group of stories about dreams, space faring, artificial planets, and other technical and scientific marvels, the setting for the make-work life of the characters. Technology gives them all the creature comforts they need. The question now is, what to do with all that leisure time, available because making stuff and providing services is no longer necessary. Perhaps dreams are an alternate and better reality; perhaps not.
     The stories have a dream-like logic, with occasional waking into some sort of reality, which may itself be a dream. Dream research of one kind or another figures in several stories, too. No matter: that’s a puzzle not worth solving, for these stories are really about purpose and meaning when necessity no longer makes the rules. Aldiss seems to think that without the constraints of reality we would all go mad. Or else only the mad recognise reality for what it is, a trap sprung by a mischievous universe. In the last story, the hero retreats into a dreamworld, and whether that is an alternate level of reality or merely a figment of a mad brain is left us to us to decide.
An interesting book in many ways, but not a moving one. **

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