Joe Wehrle’s terrific review of Brian Aldiss’ Hothouse short story cycle in the latest issue of The Digest Enthusiast piqued my interest in other Aldiss classics. There’s certainly a lot to consider — Aldiss has written some thirty novels, including The Dark Light Years (1964), Report on Probability A (1968), Barefoot in the Head (1969), The Eighty-Minute Hour (1974), The Malacia Tapestry (1976), and The Helliconia Trilogy, just to mention a few. His most recent novel Finches of Mars was published in 2012, and his short story “Abundances Above” appeared in Postscripts 36/37 last year, shortly before the author’s 91st birthday (!!).
But any serious study of Brian Aldiss should probably start with his first novel Non-Stop, published in 1958. The tale of a generation ship whose inhabitants have degenerated into near barbarism, it was an instant classic, and remained in print for over five decades. The novel was re-titled Starship for its 1959 appearance in the US; that title stuck through multiple editions. I’ve collected a sample of a half-dozen of my favorite covers above, starting with the 1963 Signet paperback (top left, cover by Paul Lehr) and progressing through the decades to the 1989 Carroll & Graf edition (bottom middle, art by Tony Roberts) and the SF Masterworks edition (2000, cover by Fred Gambino).
[Click the images for bigger versions.]
The Times called Non-Stop a “classic novel of deep space, mystery and adventure,” and it is still considered considered one of the canonical texts of far-future SF. David Pringle included it in his 100 Best Science Fiction Novels and , as I mentioned above, in 2000 it was reprinted as part of the Millennium SF Masterworks series. In 2007 the British Science Fiction Association selected Non-Stop for the BSFA Fiftieth Anniversary Award as the Best Novel of 1958 (their version of a Retro-Hugo).
Although the book is told from the point of view of the culturally-primitive Roy Complain, and the true nature of the generation ship is one of several big reveals during the course of the story, none of the editions I’ve found have made any attempt to hide that secret from readers. Most, in fact, make it pretty clear right on the cover. Here’s a closer look at the wraparound cover of the 1975 Avon reprint, for example.
Sadly, the cover art for the Avon paperback is uncredited.
Our previous coverage of Brian Aldiss has chiefly focused on his Ace Double appearances and his anthologies, which seems like an oversight to me.
See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.