Arboreal-overrun corridors with deformed green humans (5/5)
From August 19, 2009
Knowledge that the entire novel takes place in a generation ship isn't made clear until then end, however, it is widely known that Non-stop is in fact one of the few `generation ship' novels. It's obvious from the start that the humans in the Quarters aren't very human at all- they are shrunken, green, time-skewed and deformed. Living in the same world but not in the same region are the mysterious Outsiders, the mythical Giants and the majestic Forwards. Visualize this: cramped corridors run over by exotic arboreal growths paralleled by yet-to-open chambers containing mementos of generations past. That's how the reader is introduced to the world in which these mutated humans live- in squalor, in poverty where they know no difference, in the seemingly wilderness. It's all very fascinating to imagine that feral human mutants running amok in the bowels of an ancient spaceship. If that doesn't interest you, maybe you shouldn't be reading sci-fi?
After the initial introduction to the world they live in, the plot becomes bogged down a bit by internal happenings in the Quarters. Perhaps I was just anxious to delve straight into the rest of the ship to discover what wonders or horrors it held. Much to my satisfaction, the plot proceeded to do just that. Later, I could appreciate the early lull in plot as it helped to characterize the village mutants as individuals and as a whole.
Further along, there is a romantic subplot, which other reviews don't seem to appreciate. However, when taken into the context that the relationship is being carried on by a village mutant and a beauty (as described by the mutant) it's unsettling to the reader as the reader doesn't know the intentions of the beauty. Is she using the mutant for her own purposes or is she honestly in love with him? Aldiss throws that massive wrench into the works as the reader attempts to figure out what is going on- it ain't easy. Through some guesswork, I figured out about half the ending while halfway through the novel. Perhaps it read too predictably or perhaps it was my intuition. Either way, I was still on seats edge awaiting every page, paying strict attention to every nuance and reading into every word in every conversation. Just fantastic!
For more novels regarding generation ships, look for Alastair Reynolds' Chasm City, Frank M. Robinson's Dark Beyond the Stars, and Gene Wolfe's Nightside of the Long Sun. I think I'm forgetting others I've read... shucks.