|Submitted by firstname.lastname@example.org |
(Dec 20, 2001)
Having written twenty-five short story collections to date, Brian Aldiss's recent achievement, "Supertoys Last All Summer Long: And Other Stories of Future Time," is typical of most post-modern science fiction, lacking the "intense and powerful drama of love and intelligence" he mistakenly suggests the book has in his foreword. One would think that after more than thirty-five years of working with movie directors, including Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick, Aldiss's recent accomplishment would borrow some of their subjectivity. Unfortunately, Aldiss degrades the purposefulness of religion (such as is symbolized in "Apogee Again," a short story within the "Supertoys" collection), and human emotion is left to a pedophilic version of Darwinism where "nothing in life is ever enough," not even sex with twelve-year-old girls.
Nineteen short stories in the book, and not one can truly be classified as "contemporary." Imitating a determinism not seen since Melvilles's "Bartleby, The Scrivener," the book is Naturalism in a futuristic setting. Protagonists are "almost human," narrators are mere "visual representatives" with gearbox bodies, and final thoughts for each story echoes a familiar "Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!"
Comic relief is the only relief from this book's dreary perception of our future. In "Beef," the Western world is nearly brought to an end because terrorists have destroyed the beef industry. Although completely unbelievable, the story's parodying of our modern meat eaters is quite hilarious. Without the comedy within the book's collection, the overall theme of science-based determinism would be neither consistent nor consistently biased.
The varying lengths of each story promotes reader friendliness; longer stories are often interrupted with shorter ones. Each story also avoids the repetition of a single genre, as love, adventure, horror, and even mythological themes are introduced and played upon. In this sense, "Supertoys" succeeds in creating a very entertaining collection of works, moving from each story to the next like scenes in a movie.
Language in many of the stories gives away Aldiss's talent for detail. A world economy "crumbles like an old man without teeth," nature is a "frozen eyeball, diminished under its eyelid of eclipsing cloud," and love is an experience where "we became solemn, gazing, marvelling, at each other's body, made ruddy by the setting sun." Even in the detail the comedy does not stop as a penis is described as a "little winkle, which responded readily to her grasp." Without mentioning what the object is, Aldiss succeeds in planting its image in our minds--forever and sometimes with a laugh.
Aldiss could have done better. His knack for comedy and grasping so many genres in a single volume is lost to the overemphasis on determinism. The book is far from uninteresting, however, and deserves to be read just for the beauty in its language, if nothing else.