Science Fiction Though the Decades

Monday, May 28, 2012

1971: Saliva Tree (Aldiss, Brian)

Aldiss at his best- some fiction with the science fiction (4/5)
From April 5, 2011

Having already read Aldiss's short story collections in Last Orders (3/5) and The Book of Brian Aldiss (3/5), I wasn't keen on starting yet another Aldiss collection. I'm a pretty big fan of his novels (six to-date, all above three stars) but his short stories never captured me. The longest story in this collection is also the most famous from Aldiss- "The Saliva Tree." This SF story was pretty good and so was another SF-themed story: "Smith's Burst." Some of the non-SF stories are better than his SF-themed stories. Finding that Aldiss wrote clever fiction and witty horror was a treat ("Lonely Habit" & "Shared Pleasure"). With just one lame duck in this bunch... it's the best collection Aldiss has, thus far.

Saliva Tree (1965, novella) - 4/5 - Nineteenth century bucolic England is visited by meteorites and an innocuous pond-deep vessel which houses two invisible beings. The electrify-owning farmer, his fair maiden daughter and her suitor have differing opinions as the nature of the farm's recent mysteries and the nature of the beasts. 81 pages

Danger: Religion! (1962, novella) - 3/5 - A just history professor is home to a parallel earth where England is recovering from a war when a parallel traveler takes the professor back to his reality- a theocracy embracing slavery yet lacking technological progress save for the invention of parallel travel. 43 pages

The Source (1965, short story) - 1/5 - Traveling from Andromeda to visit the source of humanity, a scientist surveys the people and the land for mankind's great achievement but experiences more of an acid trip than anything. 16 pages

The Lonely Habit (1966, short story) - 5/5 - A greenhorn serial killer relishes the kill and the secret pleasure of identifying with the mementos of the disposed corpse. While initiating the threat of the fourth victim, the killer finds his ilk. 10 pages

A Pleasure Shared (1962, short story) - 4/5 - A rather proper gentleman and part-time murderer has befriended a young widow and has been unfortunately acquainted with another rather beastly tenant. The beast plans to marry the widow but the murder just wants a blanket to wrap his victim in. 14 pages

One Role with Relish (1966, short story) - 3/5 - A seemingly over-enthusiastic man forces a friendship upon another man after a dental visit. Are his motives merely platonic, sexual or perhaps slightly malevolent? 10 pages

Legends of Smith's Burst (1959, novelette) - 4/5 - A word-crafty man find himself sold into slavery on a wretched planet full of mutant beings. He manages to escape or overcome each challenger with wit and with the assistance of his fair maiden, the human daughter of a trounced king. 43 pages

The Day of the Doomed King (1965, short story) - 4/5 - A progressive but starry-eyed king is maimed by an invading force. He and his general venture to warn the next town over but not before seeking good omen with a seer. 16 pages

Paternal Care (1966, short story) - 3/5 - A student spies from a hilltop a woman working in the field and perpetually rushing to her hovel to put the escaping child back indoors. When the student gains a close perspective, he finds out the city's defense isn't as loose as it seemed. 5 pages

The Girl and the Robot with Flowers (1965, short story) - 3/5 - Aldiss bounces an idea off his about a short story he's working on where the main visual image is a robot holding flowers, but Aldiss mulls over it and decides he's not in a robot-flower-war-with-humans kind of mood these years. 8 pages

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