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Book: Greybeard

Author: Brian Aldiss


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Very recently - 2006. Saw it on a friend's bookcase, and thought I'd give it a go.
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In Depth


Catastrophe novel of the geriatric variety that cemented the reputation of a British great.

Brian Aldiss is British science fiction's great survivor, having begun his career on the back of the Wyndham-inspired revival of the 1950s, been prominent in the ascent of the New Wave in the 1960s, and gone on to have his greatest successes in the 1970s and 80s with his Helliconia series.

The favourite science fiction novel of Michael Moorcock, Greybeard is Aldiss' contribution the great British tradition of catastrophe tales. Set in a world bereft of all children after the aging population had been sterilised by cosmic radiation, the story focuses on how these survivors eke out a semblance of civilisation in the face of nature asserting a new order of things.

Along with Hothouse (1962) and Barefoot in the Head (1969), Greybeard confirmed Aldiss as a leading light of the British New Wave. Although obviously rooted in the ethos of the post-war baby-boomer generation, Greybeard could also be interpreted as an autobiographical work: it was written following Aldiss' divorce from his wife, who also won custody of his children. What, he likely asked himself, would a world without children be like?

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