on 12 September 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.
on 29 June 2003
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.
'Non-Stop' by Brian Aldiss is quite rightfully a classic in the Sci-Fi field in that it deals with some quite interesting and hard issues and does so under the cover of a fictional story.
The story begins in a relatively primitive tribe, with many hints of this existing in an environment that has once been much more advanced but decayed since. A group of people from the tribe, including the protagonist - Roy Complain - at some point decide to go beyond the dogma and the limits of the tribe, and explore. And without giving any spoilers, there is much to learn.
The book deals with so many topics it is hard to summarize them all. They include dealing with catastrophic calamities, the emergence and spread of religion, genetic alterations, the role of man in society, moral hazard, and so much more.
The characters may be a bit hard to follow and comprehend from the beginning, since the author endeavored to make them believable in the context of their existence more than likeable to the readership. As such it takes you some time to understand their motives and drives.
This makes the book probably not the easiest, most page turning read you have encountered, at the same time the book raises so many points that reflection is in order anyway. The limited action there is is well paced and sufficiently gripping but it is much more the dawning of understanding that drives the plot and the book overall.
The book should work for most people who like their science fiction a bit more cerebral, with less focus of space fights and more on societal change and thought experiments. At any rate, one can say that it is a classic in its field and that it deserves to be read for that alone.
on 19 January 2016
I first read this at age fifteen and was enthralled. Thirty years later I have just read it again and found it as fresh, intriguing and thought provoking as ever. Even though I could remember where the plot was heading, my recent enjoyment was undiminished.
My only minor criticisms are, 1. The ending is abrupt and leaves the reader hanging, 2. Some of the themes are underdeveloped. The book could easily have been twice as long, but still works very well as it is. The writing is top quality and highly welcome among the current culture of sub-professional sci-fi novels. In my opinion, this fascinating story has not aged at all in fifty eight years, a remarkable achievement in a genre where some of the best known works seem dated after two decades and archaic after five.
The characters are a rag tag bunch, often angry, sometimes violent, yet pitiable in their ignorance, like lost children running wild. As their known world both crumbles and enlarges, they are forced to change with it, but their thirst for discovery takes them beyond the hard questions of life and grows to a size big enough to threaten everything they need to survive.
on 26 June 2015
The idea driving this novel is a good one, but the execution is poor. I've started reading one of Aldiss' later books, and its much, much better. 'Non-Stop' has an awful character you can't root for, who then transforms into a supposed hero in no time at all; no description of the environment - I found myself skimming text because there was nothing in it to hold my attention; no description of any action - anything exciting is barely mentioned, and told with mundane prose; boring dialogue which often serves as laborious obvious plot direction.
The book is basically one of the author's first attempts at writing a novel, and it feels like it is - there is no style to the writing. It's just not very good. I've given it two stars only because the idea running through the novel is a good sci-fi one, which kept my interest in spite of the writing.
on 31 December 2013
I have read some mixed reviews on this one but decided to add it to my collection of classic sci- fi. Pleased to report, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was fast paced, engaging and with some really interesting ideas. It doesn't matter if some of them seem improbable. At the end of the novel, which I thought could have been a little longer in parts (a bit more on the state of the ship and the evolution of those on board and their mythologies perhaps?) I found it satisfied on several levels (no pun intended) and left me feeling empathetic towards both the 'giants' and the 'dizzies' alike. It's a very thought provoking, human story. I would say its a 3.5 but as I can't award half stars and I don't want to give the wrong impression, it gets 4 from me. I will be reading more Brian Aldiss.
on 27 February 2012
Hmm, how do I explain this book without totally spoiling it? Very difficult. I think this was Aldiss's fourth or fifth novel. It was written in 1958, so you can guess that the writing style is slightly old-fashioned. For me, this added to its immense charm, rather than detract from it. The characters are great, particularly Marapper, who I could see and hear quite clearly from the first time he speaks. The Greene tribe are fairly primitive in their ways, constantly on the move through a world of corridors filled with overgrown vegetation. Roy Complain is a hunter, who ventures beyond the guard barriers into the ponics, where he kills pigs to trade for bread and such. The tribe is threatened by other tribes, and by the Forwarders, and the Outsiders, and rumours of the Giants, who were once thought extinct but have been seen again. When 'his woman' follows him on a hunt she is taken by another tribe in an area called Sternstairs and Complain, flogged for losing her, Marapper and three others decide to escape and try and find the mythical Control.
The exact nature of their world, who the other races are, and why they are there is slowly deciphered by the characters as the story progresses. Much of it is easy to guess, but the pace of the novel, the charm with which it is told, and the steadily developing characters meant I didn't begrudge that at all.
My one problem with the book is the brevity of the ending. Where I was expecting another chapter the story just ends, and very abruptly at that. It's the only part of the book that feels rushed, which is a real shame, almost like he wasn't quite sure how to conclude it. Still, I suppose that's nothing new in sf with big ideas. Apart from that, it's a great read.
And I haven't mentioned the rats ...
on 4 November 2015
Possibly the most aptly-titled book I've ever read. Once it hits its stride, it really is non-stop. It's a real page-turner and I found it hard to put down. I would definitely recommend giving it a go!
on 5 January 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.
on 12 May 2014
I love this book. Its a great story I have to say when I recently read this book that I felt like i had read elements of it in another book. It feels similar in ideas to Dark eden (non-stop was first) and I wouldn't be surprised if that author read this book and was influenced by it. It is a very interesting subject matter and the story flows well throughout. Overall a worth while read.