Monday, 30 August 2010

Brian Aldiss, The Eighty-Minute Hour (1974)


I've been re-reading Aldiss's extraordinary Greybeard (1964) so as to write an intro for the forthcoming 2011 Gollancz Masterworks reprint. But I'm not going to give you the benefit of my lucubrations on that title here, for free (if you're interested, you can buy a copy when it comes out). So instead, here's a lesser, though still good, Aldiss title: 1974's inventive, neatly ironic space opera, The Eighty-Minute Hour. I found this particular edition in a charity shop. Now, the cover, up there, is nothing to write home about, but take a look at the back cover [click on the image to enlarge]:


They don't do backcover blurbs like this any more. 'WHEN MAN BITES DOG IT'S NEWS. WHEN THE GREATEST WRITER OF THE NEW SCIENCE FICTION BRINGS OUT A NEW BOOK, IT'S HISTORY.' What? By which I mean: what? Man bites dog what? How many 'new's, there? What-what? 'Aldiss IS BACK WITH THE BIGGEST S-F BOOK OF 1975. YOU MAY HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL 2001 TO READ A BETTER ALDISS. BUT DON'T COUNT ON IT.'

What? Why are you shouting?

Conceivably, and with remarkable prescience, the 1970s blurb-writer saw that the only Aldiss title published in 2001 would be Orbit's reprint collection of old stories, Supertoys Last All Summer Long; and Other Stories of Future Time. Even if we expand the prophecy-zone to include Super-State: A Novel of a Future Europe (2000) and The Cretan Teat (2002), we'd have to concede that they're not better novels than this one. Nevertheless ... what? I'm not even going to try to transcribe Edward L. Harris's superbizzare endorsement.

Inside the book, the publisher ('Leisure Books, New York City') include full-colour ads. Here's one [again, click image to enlarge]:


Alive with pleasure! She's about to set fire to Jackson's sweater, there, as you can see. That's because she'd rather be with the Brian Aldiss fan with whom she's making eye contact. At the back of the book 'Leisure Books' has some suggestions by way of further reading for the dedicated literary New Wave SF fan:


If there's one title here that stands out it must be: The Sexecutioner/Tong in Cheek ('Where the Mafia goes the world's sexiest crime fighter is sure to follow -- even in Red China'). Tong? What?

4 comments:

A Writer said...

So the trailer voice used to write book blurbs?

Ian Vance said...

Interesting, here is the author of "Cherry Delight":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gardner_Fox

Love those blurbs.

Adam Roberts said...

"Between 1944 and 1982, he wrote at least a novel a year ... typically producing three per year - he published twelve in 1974 alone."

Now we're talking!

SpaceSquid said...

Isn't a Tong some kind of clandestine Chinese fraternity? So "Talons of Weng Chiang" led me to believe, anyway, and why would '70s BBC science fiction lie to me?