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Greybeard (S.F. MASTERWORKS) [Paperback]

Brian Aldiss
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Mar 2011 S.F. MASTERWORKS
Ecological disaster has left the English countryside a wasteland. Humanity faces extinction, unless Greybeard and his wife Martha are successful in their quest for the scarcest and most precious of resources: human children.

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Greybeard (S.F. MASTERWORKS) + Hothouse (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (10 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575071133
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575071131
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 358,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Aldiss's father ran a department store that his grandfather had established, and the family lived above it. At the age of 6, Brian was sent to board at West Buckland School in Devon, which he attended until his late teens. In 1943, he joined the Royal Signals regiment, and saw action in Burma; his encounters with tropical rainforests at that time may have been at least a partial inspiration for Hothouse, as his Army experience inspired the Horatio Stubbs second and third books.

After World War II, he worked as a bookseller in Oxford. Besides short science fiction for various magazines, he wrote a number of short pieces for a booksellers trade journal about life in a fictitious bookshop, and this attracted the attention of Charles Monteith, an editor at the British publishers Faber and Faber. As a result of this, Aldiss's first book was The Brightfount Diaries (1955), a novel in diary form about the life of a sales assistant in a bookshop.
In 1955, The Observer newspaper ran a competition for a short story set in the year 2500, which Aldiss won with a story entitled "Not For An Age". The Brightfount Diaries had been a minor success, and Faber asked Aldiss if he had any more writing that they could look at with a view to publishing. Aldiss confessed to being a science fiction author, to the delight of the publishers, who had a number of science fiction fans in high places, and so his first science fiction book, a collection of short stories entitled Space, Time and Nathaniel was published. By this time, his earnings from writing equalled the wages he got in the bookshop, so he made the decision to become a full-time writer.
He was voted the Most Promising New Author at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1958, and elected President of the British Science Fiction Association in 1960. He was the literary editor of the Oxford Mail newspaper during the 1960s. Around 1964 he and his long-time collaborator Harry Harrison started the first ever journal of science fiction criticism, Science Fiction Horizons, which during its brief span of two issues published articles and reviews by such authors as James Blish, and featured a discussion among Aldiss, C. S. Lewis, and Kingsley Amis in the first issues, and an interview with William S. Burroughs in the second.

Besides his own writings, he has had great success as an anthologist. For Faber he edited Introducing SF, a collection of stories typifying various themes of science fiction, and Best Fantasy Stories. In 1961 he edited an anthology of reprinted short science fiction for the British paperback publisher Penguin Books under the title Penguin Science Fiction. This was remarkably successful, going into numerous reprints, and was followed up by two further anthologies, More Penguin Science Fiction (1963), and Yet More Penguin Science Fiction (1964). The later anthologies enjoyed the same success as the first, and all three were eventually published together as The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus (1973), which also went into a number of reprints. In the 1970s, he produced several large collections of classic grand-scale science fiction, under the titles Space Opera (1974), Space Odysseys (1975), Galactic Empires (1976), Evil Earths (1976), and Perilous Planets (1978) which were quite successful. Around this time, he edited a large-format volume Science Fiction Art (1975), with selections of artwork from the magazines and pulps.
In response to the results from the planetary probes of the 1960s and 1970s, which showed that Venus was completely unlike the hot, tropical jungle usually depicted in science fiction, he and Harry Harrison edited an anthology Farewell, Fantastic Venus!, reprinting stories based on the pre-probe ideas of Venus. He also edited, with Harrison, a series of anthologies The Year's Best Science Fiction (1968-1976?)

Brian Aldiss also invented a form of extremely short story called the Minisaga. The Daily Telegraph hosted a competition for the best Minisaga for several years and Aldiss was the judge.[2] He has edited several anthologies of the best Minisagas.

He traveled to Yugoslavia, where he met Yugoslav fans in Ljubljana, Slovenia; he published a travel book about Yugoslavia; he published an alternative-history fantasy story about Serbian kings in the Middle Ages; and he wrote a novel called The Malacia Tapestry, about an alternative Dalmatia.

He has achieved the honor of "Permanent Special Guest" at ICFA, the conference for the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, which he attends annually.

He was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to literature in HM Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Honours list, announced on 11 June 2005.

In January 2007 he appeared on Desert Island Discs. His choice of record to 'save' was Old Rivers sung by Walter Brennan, his choice of book was John Halpern's biography of John Osborne, and his luxury a banjo. The full selection of eight favourite records is on the BBC website .

On 1 July 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Liverpool in recognition of his contribution to literature.

In addition to a highly successful career as a writer, Aldiss is also an accomplished artist whose abstract compositions or 'isolées' are influenced by the work of Giorgio de Chirico and Wassily Kandinsky. His first solo exhibition The Other Hemisphere was held in Oxford, UK, in August-September 2010, and the exhibition's centrepiece 'Metropolis' has since been released as a limited edition fine art print.

Product Description

Review

'Greybeard is one of those hidden gems, a rare find that makes you kick yourself for not discovering it sooner, a masterful piece of literary science fiction and a poignant tale of human mortality.' (5/5 stars) (SFBOOK)

brilliant and highly recommended (SFFWORLD.COM)

Book Description

A haunting vision of a post-apocalyptic England.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
One man's search for meaning in a dysfunctional world... it's a common theme for Brian Aldiss to take up. This book, however, is perhaps a little more accessible than titles like Hothouse or Non-Stop, which also explore this theme. This is largely because Greybeard is set in the still recognisable world of Oxfordshire, England, albeit set in the near future in a world seemingly devoid of children. The novel has a very haunting and melancholic quality to it but ends on an inspired note. Recommended reading... and you don't have to be a fan of science fiction to enjoy this.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
A couple of weeks ago I was in the Oxfam shop, looking for a science fiction item to buy. I plumped for this one, and I've just finished it.

On the good side, it's a well-written book, with good characters. What happens is that the testing of WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) in space have affected the Van Allen radiation belts around the earth, rendering the human race (and most higher animals) sterile.

So, without children, civilization slowly and inexorably crumbles. England is run, not by a national government, but by regional warlords. A group of old people have established themselves in the village of Sparcot, growing enough food to get by, and avoiding the plague which has decimated the population of the cities. One man, Greybeard, growing tired of the same old way of life, decides he has to leave, to seek his fortune. So off he goes, with this wife, rowing down the Thames.... The book meanders along for a while, telling us what Greybeard does and has done.

Suddenly, about halfway through the book, there is a major gear change, and we find ourselves in the USA, and a completely different storyline ensues. I found this big change rather difficult to swallow, as it's a bit like reading a completely different book!

Eventually the story moves back to England, with the old fogeys and has-beens trying to make the best of things. I found it quite difficult to get into this book, despite it being well-written. It's a bit like watching a mediocre play - not bad, but you are quite relieved when it comes to an end. It's just a bit dull, and I cannot honestly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
A nuclear accident unleashes radioactivity on the earth rendering the population sterile. As the population ages the earth decays to the dark ages frantically grasping for the myth of children still being born.
An interesting idea, well developed with good character generation. Unfortunately just lacked that special something which renders a good book a classic!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Senile Delinquents" 7 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Don't normally enjoy Science Fiction, but enjoyed this novel. I thought its use of the term "senile delinquents" was a wonderful alternative to the more normal "juvenile delinquents". I read the book because it is featured this month on BBC World Service Radio's excellent World Book Club, and I am looking forward to listening to Aldiss responding tomorrow to questions from both a studio and worldwide audience. (By the way, I can thoroughly recommend this programme, which has caused me to read all sorts of book I would not normally buy. Also, I am sure most of us have that empty feeling when finishing a book. So it is great to finish a book, knowing one still has this programme to look forward to). Finally, perhaps on a rather inward note given that my partner and I are "childfree", it would have been good if Aldiss could have touched on the advantages of a couple not having children - this is particularly apparent to me where I live in Africa - average 6 to 7 children per woman and a population doubling every 20 or so years, carries with it many negative features.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but lacks some depth 7 Aug 2009
By Alison TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I enjoyed this book but I don't think it really lived up to its potential. The first few pages got me hooked right in, very cinematic descriptions, I could visualise how the first scene would look like if it were a movie. The characters were interesting but could have been developed more as some were only superfically described. I also wanted to know more about the deeper feelings of these people who couldn't have children. Aldiss does explore this somewhat, but I think this is where he misses a trick. It just doesn't delve deeply enough into the issues that this scenario raises.

If you like this genre of book then I would certainly recommend reading it, it was certainly enjoyable and well written. It was difficult for me to get hold of though, it seems to have been out of print for a while so if you can get a second hand copy in any condition it's worth grabbing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Another thoroughly absorbing and wonderfully literate work by SF Master Brian Aldiss. While dealing with an almost unbearably maudlin premise; our world made infertile by the ill-considered detonation of Atomic warheads in the earth's atmosphere; Aldiss writes so well, and with such sublime humanity, that one can't help but feel rather optimistic about the recuperative powers of man.

Each zesty, colorful vignette is beautifully realized by Aldiss, and one is quickly immersed in the wholly absorbing narrative of Greybeard, and his delightful wife Martha's stoic exodus through the myriad adventures they have along the Thames estuary, and the much hoped-for sanctuary of the sea.

I'm sure Greybeard must be one of the most elegiac journey's into the inevitable demise of our natal planet; as there is such a grand wit and effervescing, searching mind at work behind this exemplary novel.

Mr. Aldiss I salute you! 'Greybeard' has not not only proven to be an inspirational tome for generations of writers; it is also an earthy, impassioned, richly woven tale which shall remain a must-read for all those who genuinely appreciate great literary art.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brian Aldiss
It's by the MASTER, what more's to say.
Published 24 days ago by Stuart Bird
3.0 out of 5 stars Oldies Alone?
A 1960s take on "What if" humans stop reproducing - exploring the social consequences of an ageing population heading towards extinction. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jane Insley
4.0 out of 5 stars decline, decay, and dissolution
I read this book after finding the excellent 'The age of Aquarius' by A W Findlay and searching for similar themes. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sorina C
2.0 out of 5 stars Too dismal !
I ordered this book on my Kindle after hearing the BBC World Book Club discussion. Not that the author impressed me: on the contrary he just sounded gloomy, and avoided awkward but... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Michael Tracy
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent Science Fiction
I read this for the BBC World Book Club. It wouldn't have been my first choice but I found it extremely well written, especially the descriptions, and a throughly enjoyable read. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Albertfrog
5.0 out of 5 stars Greybeard by Brian Aldiss
This is a book by a British author so why must we suffer American spelling? Apart from that I enjoyed the book, reasonably logical in it's assumptions and entertaining.
Published 8 months ago by Ian Coole
5.0 out of 5 stars OAP-ocalypse
The story follows two of the youngest people in a world full of OAPs following an accident that leaves the human population of the Earth sterile and unable to have children, along... Read more
Published on 2 July 2008 by Andy Phillips
5.0 out of 5 stars Original, subtle, moving - a classic of the genre
Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons has rendered the population sterile. Decades later, in Oxford, a group of very elderly people eke out a meagre existence as nature reclaims... Read more
Published on 20 April 2003 by Justin Williams
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