Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, April 6, 2012

1967: Cryptozoic! (Aldiss, Brian)

Chronological and Psychological mind blow (4/5)
From July 12, 2011

My eighth Aldiss book to-date and I haven't been disappointed in any of his novels yet (while the collection in The Saliva Tree was great, the other two of Last Orders and The Book of Brian Aldiss left something to be desired for). Cryptozoic is pretty trippy, more so than Earthworks. But why else would you read Aldiss? He's got BIG ideas! Cryptozoic was originally titled An Age and was serialized in three parts from October to December 1967.

Rear cover synopsis:
"Mind-travel through the time-entropy barrier is the perfect recreational escape. It's expensive, sometime dangerous, but always fascinating. Edward Bush has travelled millions of years through the earth's primordial past, sketching the strangely beautiful landscapes of the Devonian and Jurassic ages. New he is searching the past for a man the dictator wants eliminated. And when he finds that man, Edward Bush will be hurtled across eons, against the flow of time. Waiting for him at world's beginning, in the violent cauldron where no life exists, is a future that mankind could never have foreseen... the utterly alien horror of time uncreated."

The word "cryptozoic" is hard to type out. Also, it's kind of hard to figure out. Near the end of the twenty-first century, time travel via the mind became a reality. The body would stay in 2093 but the mind would whiz back to the Jurassic era, Devonian era or even the Holocene epoch if you've got the talent. Prohibitively expensive, mind time travel is reserved for vacationers wanting to visit the mind-colony in the Jurassic era or ride their mind-motorcycles through the ages. More importantly, a research institute sends scientists or artists out to view and record the landscape of history, however, interaction with the environment is impossible.

Bush is the man we view this pan-chronological world through... from land-walking fish, to tyrannical lizards of yesteryear and to his modern day dystopia where America has crumbled and is now under leadership after leadership of tyrannical generals. Bush is a victim of Freud's oedipus complex: he's fixated on his mother and not on the best of terms with his father. When Bush learns of his mother's passing away, he joins his father in drinking binges even though he know at his father's frail age, the hooch will eventually kill him (half of the oedipus complex). Incest is a running theme though never actually consummated. This is definitely a chronological and psychological mindblow.

All goes very well for most of the book. The second half sees Bush go through military training to become a time-assassin and things get even more weird thereafter. You've really got to hunker down and concentrate on the mind time-traveling... Bush jumps to the immediate past of his own present and stops an action which is in action during his old present (umm, anyone get that?). Further into the last half, there are some more ongoings which really challenge your grip on the English language when it comes to the NOW, the PAST, the FUTURE and FATE. It's a big idea and it's pretty hard to grasp - but if you do, it's very rewarding!

5-stars for the mindblow but subtracting 1-star here for the internal logic of Bush which goes missing in the pages. Alliances change on his side and the "other" side, he was against him and now he's for him, and why exactly was he in training? Just a bit of the book is sketchy like this, but pick it up and read it for the big ideas!

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