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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true classic of the field
I wish for this to remain a non-spoiler review. To give away anything of this story, would be a crime in my opinion.

The Greene Tribe live in relative ignorance, generally only aware of their own immediate surroundings, and meagre existence. For them to really consider where they are, is truly beyond them. This is until one of their kind - Roy Complain -...
Published on 12 Sep 2006 by buckrichard@hotmail.com

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Non-Stop
[WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW...]

The idea of a `generation ship' had been kicking around in both scientific non-fiction and SF for quite a few years by 1958, when Brian Aldiss wrote the first novel-length treatment of the concept. Non-Stop concerns itself with several scavenging, semi-primitive tribes who inhabit a primordial jungle; the obvious mid-novel...
Published 15 months ago by TomCat


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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true classic of the field, 12 Sep 2006
I wish for this to remain a non-spoiler review. To give away anything of this story, would be a crime in my opinion.

The Greene Tribe live in relative ignorance, generally only aware of their own immediate surroundings, and meagre existence. For them to really consider where they are, is truly beyond them. This is until one of their kind - Roy Complain - decides to investigate beyond his dwellings.

A story can be very powerful when told in the right way. Non-Stop does this in a very well poised and paced manner. Although the book does start slowly, and really does not get going until about a quarter of the way through, the revelations brought upon the reader are truly shocking, with a long lasting effect. I was totally stunned by what Complain discovers. Shortly in, you find out why the book is called 'Non-Stop', and from that point, the shocks keep coming for Complain that turn his whole universe inside-out. He realises that for the whole of his life, and that of his tribe, they have been totally deceived, and that their whole existence is an age-old lie gone horribly wrong.

This is, in my opinion, Aldiss' finest work. Having read the majority of the Sci-Fi Masterworks series, amongst many others, this rates as one of the true greats of the genre. This book will get under your skin, and stay with you for a long, long time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Non-Stop, 2 Jun 2013
By 
TomCat (Cardiff, Wales.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Non-Stop (S.F. Masterworks) (Kindle Edition)
[WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW...]

The idea of a `generation ship' had been kicking around in both scientific non-fiction and SF for quite a few years by 1958, when Brian Aldiss wrote the first novel-length treatment of the concept. Non-Stop concerns itself with several scavenging, semi-primitive tribes who inhabit a primordial jungle; the obvious mid-novel revelation being that these tribesmen are, in fact, the distant descendants of the crew of a vast generation ship that has lost its own history and which, owing to some horrific accident, has become over-grown with mutated plant life (dubbed `ponics' - presumably a corruption of the term `hydroponics'). I say the twist is "obvious", but this is only because it has, in recent years, become an over-used cliché of both visual and literary SF, from Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun and Christine Love's Analogue: a Hate Story, to cinema's abortive 2009 horror bore-fest Pandorum.

The reason for this over-use is obvious: the scenario is an incredibly fruitful one, a twist that generates impressive narrative momentum and sense-of-wonder while simultaneously knocking at the door of deeper philosophical investigations and a Platonist questioning of the material evidence for the world around us. Non-Stop is one of the better examples of this scenario, and is, of course, awarded extra SF points for being its progenitor. The prose is a little dry, occasionally veering on clunky, but the sheer pace of the book mitigates any sense of stylistic aridity, and the deftly handled dénouement is, for modern readers at least, a much more impressive shock than the early disclosure that `they were on a ship all along'.

Generous readers might want to argue that Non-Stop (both its plot and, fittingly, its title) functions as a metaphor for human history and our awakening from an ignorant dark age into a self-aware scientific knowledge. This transition, it's religious and psychological implications, are brilliantly worked-through in the character of Marapper, a priest who leads an expedition to find the ship's legendary "bridge". Unfortunately, however, the rest of book's characterisation is inconsistent at best, with the majority of protagonists seemingly unfazed by the surely mind-blowing discovery that the recognizable world of their arid jungle is actually an enclosed hermetic space aboard an interstellar, man-made ship; I was hoping for at least a little existential panic. (Although there is a strikingly beautiful sequence in which several characters stumble upon and activate a viewing window, exposing themselves for the first time to the stars and the vastness of the cosmos, a moment that functions as an unsubtle but nonetheless arresting metaphor for the death of religion and the revelation of human smallness).

It's not without its flaws, then, but Non-Stop is a swift, highly readable novel that has stood the test of time. It is also, perhaps, one of the best, clearest examples of what Adam Roberts calls the defining dialectic of Science Fiction: the tension between scientific, materialist logic, and the mystical spiritualism encoded in religious myth that pervades so much of our history, literature and attempts to explain the universe
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Human, but not humane, 20 Sep 2000
By 
S. J. C. Vossen-pelz (The Hague, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Roy Complain, a hunter, living in Quarters and thus a product of his upbringing, however, is not content, deep inside he always knew that there must be something more than his petty existance. Together with the priest Marapper he goes on a journey and as his knowledge grows, he changes and grows with it. I do not intend to give an outline of the story and thus spoil the pleasure of reading, or as I did, absorbing the book, not being able to turn the pages quickly enough to my liking. Like Roy I had to know what was going on and more importantly, where he was.
Brian Aldiss succeeds in portraying his characters realisticly, they are just like you and me, petty, always argueing about everything. However as the journey progresses, slowly but surely they change, especially Roy, who is capable of taking a step back and look at his situation objectively : P.92 : "He saw a parallel between the lives of the rats and the human lives emphasized in their man-like conduct of ill-treating a fellow creature, the rabbit. The rats survived where they could, giving no thought to the nature of their surroundings ; Complain could only say the same of himself until now."
It is a beautiful story, beautiful in a linguistic way, e.g. the first time Complain sees space, or the moment when he sees Laur's face caught in sunlight. But it is also a sad story, the struggle for life and in the end the harsh, cruel truth. In science man has made many discoveries and scienctific progress, unfortunately the human heart has not grown in the sense that would make it more humane. On the contrary, the human heart has evolved in a different direction. It has not grown warmer, but colder. I highly recommend this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lost in Space? A fine masterworks release., 23 Jun 2001
By 
Mr. Paul J. Stephen (Leeds) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a highly readable Sci-fi story. To a fair extent I agree that you do have a good idea how the story will pan out but this doesn't stop you feeling the pain and loss when the characters eventually find out the truth.
Aldiss keeps the reader on edge throughout and the motives are explored within the final pages. I found his writing constant throughout and you must be reminded that this is one of his first novels and published in the late fifties. The old lost in space storyline is there but I did enjoy the way the characters grew and the tale was pieced together.
This is another first class addition to the Masterworks library and an absolute must for all fans of the genre.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Aldiss evokes yet another strange and wonderful environment., 29 Jun 2003
By 
C. Foster "sdolemelipone" (St. Helens, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
One thing is for sure in the field of Science Fiction; if you like your plate full of 'heroes' who are paragons of moral probity - Brian Wilson Aldiss is the author to give you a triple dose of stomach-churning indigestion.
Quite from where he draws inspiration for such spiteful, perfidious and yet deliciously appealing protagonists as those found in Non-Stop (not to mention his other works) is beyond me. And in all honesty - I don't really want to know.
Meet Roy Complain, member of the Greene tribe, a nomadic group of semi-primitives trapped aboard a malfunctioning generation star ship ploughing its way through the Universe. Roy's job is to forage for food throughout dark and foreboding corridors overrun by choking plant life.
Surprisingly enough, the members of the tribe appear completely oblivious to their actual predicament; the truth of their existence, and that of their environment, is shrouded in mystery - lost and corrupted over the centuries.
Only the fiercely redoubtable Father Henry Marapper suspects that there may be more to the 'world' than meets the eye, and when Roy's mate is abducted in the corridor jungles, the priest enlists the resourceful hunter for a dangerous trek into the unknown reaches of the spacecraft in search of answers.
Along for the journey come several other individuals who would appear to represent the absolute worst examples of humanity such as Wantage, hideously disfigured and the hopelessly psychotic, and Roffery, a brazenly corrupt meat salesman. Marapper himself, whilst being hugely entertaining, is a certifiable maniac with a penchant for dispending a brand of 'religion' that probably wouldn't be out of place during the Spanish Inquisition.
In all honesty, you'd be hard pressed to imagine this disparate group of quarrelsome lunatics ever reaching their goal, but after negotiating their way through the hazardous Deadways (populated by all manner of strange and terrifying creatures) that's exactly what some of them achieve. Of course, a major spanner is thrown into the works when it is discerned that the 'goals' weren't what they bargained for.
An excellent example of the classic 'conceptual breakthrough' SF novel, Non-Stop delivers twist after devilish twist, and whilst it's possibly not of the same calibre as Aldiss's masterwork 'Hothouse' (the narrative does tend to meander at times), it would be unfair to regard this novel as anything less than an insightful and thoroughly entertaining piece of work.
Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great approach to the 'generation starship', 27 Mar 2010
By 
Andy Phillips (Leicestershire, UK) - See all my reviews
As other reviewers have pointed out, a good portion of the story is given away in the blurb on the back of the book, or is obvious, but this still makes a good read. The story centres on Roy Complain (I'm not sure if the name has some meaning that I failed to grasp) and a small band of men from his settlement who set out to explore their surroundings. They come from a fairly primitive tribe who live in a jungle that clearly has man-made aspects. There are various rumours and half-forgotten myths about the origins of the tribe and Roy has always felt like there was something vital that he doesn't know.

During their travels the men come across various other inhabitants of the jungles, and eventually learn what they are and where they came from. This is done through a series of events that gradually reveal what's going on, but I personally found the last third or so of the story a bit of an unwelcome departure from the style of the beginning of the story. The ending in particular was, to be honest, a bit of a disappointment. There could have been any number of reasons for the tribe's circumstances, but the one chosen was a bit of an anti-climax in my opinion.

A good story, and worthy of inclusion in the SF Masterworks series, but not as good as some others in the collection.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Generation Ship Classic, 5 Jan 2007
Although not the first Generation Ship story to be written and certainly not the last, `Non Stop' is the book that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

David Pringle in his `100 Greatest Novels' acknowledges that Aldiss owes a debt to Heinlein's `Orphans of The Sky', a fix-up novel consisting of two novellas from the 1940s. The two books take the same basic premise, that a colony ship is launched from Earth, knowing that generations of humans will live and die within its hull before it reaches its destination. In each book, the knowledge of what the ship actually is has been lost and the descendants of the crew have reverted to a tribal existence while the ship ploughs on through space.

In contrast to Heinlein's escapist adventure however, Aldiss's vision is a darker one and succeeds, where Heinlein's doesn't, in making clear the vast distances between us and even the nearer suns in our galaxy.

We see the world of the Ship through the eyes of Complain, a young hunter whose tribe lives in Quarters. Long ago, a mutated hydroponics food plant has adapted to its surroundings and now grows everywhere, forming jungles on abandoned decks where pigs and insects thrive.

When Complain's woman is kidnapped by another tribe he is approached by Marapper, the tribe's priest, who is planning an expedition through the jungle-choked decks; an expedition to the mythical Forwards, where they may find the secret of what their world actually is.

It's a very sobering vision, since, like Wyndham, whose main novels were published only a few years before this, Aldiss refuses to provide any answers or a cosy conclusion.

What also separates this from Heinlein's work is that the characters have more of the bite of human reality about them. Most of the people we encounter are selfish to some degree and concerned for their own survival.

Aldiss very clearly show here humanity's propensity for ignorance, denial, acceptance of religious dogma without question, violence and self-destruction, and ultimately the Ship may serve as a metaphor for how we behave in the only 'world' we have.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another book spoiled by too much detail on the rear., 19 Sep 2001
By 
Graham Fleming (East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I agree with the earlier review, once you know the general plot and setting as revealed on the cover, the fun does ebb somewhat.
I read this originally in an old hardback edition with no blurb on the back and was left to piece it all together as I went through it. Far more satisfying than having it handed to you.
Ho-hum.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic of the genre, 6 Jan 2009
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Originally published in 1958, Non-Stop (originally entitled Starship in the USA, but now restored to its original title) frequently appears among lists of the all-time great science fiction novels. This is an accolade of which it is more than deserving.

Roy Complain's tribe lives in Quarters, a secured network of living spaces and corridors protected by barricades. Beyond lies the Deadways, where the ponics (plants) lie thick and hunting for game is necessary to keep the tribe alive. Rumours speak of a distant area called Forwards, where a more advanced and deadly tribe dwells. Complain is induced into a conspiracy by Marapper the priest, who has come to believe that Quarters, the Deadways, Forwards and other areas are all part of a world called Ship, which moves through a void for a purpose unknown. Marapper has procured a map he calls 'a schematic', which shows that beyond Forwards lies an area called 'Control', which he believes contains the answers to the nature of the world. Complain agrees to join Marapper and several others as they undertake a dangerous journey to learn the truth about where they are and where they are going.

Non-Stop is fifty-one years old but the writing feels fresh and inventive. It is pretty obvious from the start that the tribes are living in some kind of immense generational spaceship where civilisation has broken down and their origins are forgotten, but Aldiss keeps the reader guessing about how this happened and where the ship is headed. As the narrative continues to unfold, new information is laid at the reader's feet, but often in a confusing and fragmentary manner. What is going on with the apparently intelligent rats who occupy some areas of the Ship? And who are the mysterious Giants who appear and disappear periodically?

Fortunately, Aldiss decides to actually answer these questions rather than giving us an ambiguous ending, and those answers are fascinating, logical and surprising. In fact, it takes tremendous effort once you have turned the final page not to immediately restart the book from the beginning with a greater understanding of events. It is also a thematically strong book, with Complain's external journey of trying to understand the Ship mirrored by internal developments as he realises the problems in his life have been brought about by the pressures of the tribe, which themselves are based on lies. The biggest weakness includes a somewhat unconvincing love story, but this occupies only a couple of pages and is not a major problem.

Aldiss' prose is rich and immersive, his characterisation is convincing and the story compelling. Non-Stop (*****) is a classic and essential science fiction novel for fans of the genre. It is available from Gollancz in the UK as part of the Science Fiction Masterworks range and in the USA from Overlook Press.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brian Aldiss, 6 July 2014
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It's by the MASTER, what more's to say.
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