I've just finished reading The Shape of Further Things, by Brian Aldiss. I was halfway through it before I realised I had no idea what he was talking about. It starts off as a discussion about the future before slipping into several chapters about dreams, which merge into a personal history of science fiction, concluding in a chat about the relevance of the moon landings. The book has themes, but I don't know whether it has a Theme. Its chapters all lead, one into the other, but I'm not sure whether they go anywhere; the book itself could be said to have the same structure as the conversation Aldiss records in Chapter 11, where he attends his first science-fiction convention:
I feel in with an English fan who was an old hand at these occasions, and we headed for the hotel together.
'You've got some pep pills?'
'No," I said.
'You'll need pep pills. Got to keep awake somehow. You'll get no sleep at a con, believe you me Kettering.'
'You surprise me.'
'at Kettering last year, nobody in the whole hotel got any sleep for the entire weekend beer.'
'Beer. I never saw so much beer consumed in all my life. You like beer?'
'I can take it.'
'You'd better! Stick by me, you'll be all right!'
I lost him in the foyer of the hotel, but he caught me again as I was tiptoeing down from my room.
'There you are! It's going to be hell. Don't be3 nervous. are you feeling hungry talk?'
'Talk! We'll be talking all night! Ken Slater's got his stall up, Ron Bennett's checked in, and the fans are kneeling round Walt Willis already Ghod.'
'Walt Willis is Ghod?'
'You believe it too? That's what the fans say ...'
It's well-written and entertaining, but does it have a point? The book does have a conclusion, of sorts, but the only problem is that it bears very little relationship to what has gone before.
It's this sort of thing that alternately confounds and delights me about Aldiss. As an author, he can be both clumsy and sublime; unfortunately, his clumsiness and his sublimities seem to be intimately tied up with one another!