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Gråskæg by Brian W. Aldiss
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Gråskæg (original 1964; edition 1973)

by Brian W. Aldiss

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7021422,158 (3.48)39
Human reproduction has ceased and society slowly spirals in this "adult Lord of the Flies" by a Grand Master of Science Fiction (San Francisco Chronicle). After the "Accident," all males on Earth become sterile. Society ages and falls apart bit by bit. First, toy companies go under. Then record companies. Then cities cease to function. Now Earth's population lives in spread_out, isolated villages, with its youngest members in their fifties. When the people of Sparcot begin to make claims of gnomes and man_eating rodents lurking around their village, Greybeard and his wife set out for the coast with the hope of finding something better.… (more)
Member:mskarbiniks
Title:Gråskæg
Authors:Brian W. Aldiss
Info:Notabene, 1973.
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Greybeard by Brian W. Aldiss (Author) (1964)

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English (13)  Czech (1)  All languages (14)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
The Publisher Says: The sombre story of a group of people in their fifties who face the fact that there is no younger generation coming to replace them; instead nature is rushing back to obliterate the disaster they have brought on themselves. Was slighty revised by the author in 2012.

My Review: First published in 1964, at the tail end of one of the scariest passages during the Cold War, this post-apocalyptic look at the resilience and the lack of same in the human spirit was involving and affecting. It was also a disorganized mess.

Chapters 1-3 take place in 2025 and on, or the mid-point of the story. Chapter 4 takes place as the world finds its way through the crisis. Chapter 5 has us back in about 2030...Chapter 6 is early days of the Accident, as the sterilization of Earth's humans is called...and then back to 2030 in Chapter 7. It's kind of a confused way to tell a story. Not that it's a complicated story, but it's always nice to have things move along in sequence when there's no reason, stylistic or otherwise, for them not to.

Aldiss' Introduction to the 2012 edition tells of the genesis of the story...a divorce, a general reduction of his life to solitude, and a desperate yearning for his lost kids...and I must say that this Introduction is what kept me going for the whole short 237ish pages. I could relate to his sense of loss and his almost desperate longing. I looked for those things in his text and really didn't find them too terribly often. Many things occur in the book, but few of them happen, if you see what I mean; Greybeard, the main character, and Martha, Greybeard's wife, aren't prone to overstatement. Jeff, a character whose slippery presence is highly emotionally charged, makes little impact in the end. Charley, the dopey religious nut, isn't much of a shakes for shakin' stuff up either. Dr. Jingadangelow (!) the snake oil salesman is fun...I picture Eddie Izzard playing the role in a movie...but rattles on and rockets off ballistically.

I didn't love the book, but it's got at its heart a futureless bleakness that resonate with. After 50 years, the Accident's specifics don't quite line up with reality, but I have no smallest problem imagining specifics that end us up in the same place. One day soon, y'all should go read Sir Roy Calne's book Too Many People. I can see that causing the Accident with all too great a clarity of inner vision.

On the low end of the recommend-to-others scale, and then only to those who like post-apocalyptic stories. ( )
  richardderus | Apr 30, 2020 |
In this work of classic dystopian science fiction, a nuclear accident has left the human race (as well as larger mammals) sterile, and no children have been born for many years. As the youngest humans reach their late 50's, society has disintegrated rapidly and completely, and people live in technologically primitive tribes, defending themselves against attacks from packs of animals. The characters are seeking to find meaning to a life in which there is no one to pass the world on to. The New York Times has described this work as "An adult Lord of the Flies without Golding's heavy-handed symbolism and cumbersome style." That seems to me to be an apt comparison, although I would have kinder words about Golding's symbolism and style.

Recommended.

3 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 8, 2016 |
Brian Aldiss is one of those science fiction authors I’ve heard of plenty but am only just getting around to reading, and it was either this or Hothouse. Greybeard takes place in a world in which nuclear radiation from an orbital accident has messed with the van Allen belts and rendered many mammals, including humans, infertile. As the novel begins, the titular character is actually one of the youngest humans alive, in his mid-fifties. Virtually no children have been born for half a century and the world has slowly decayed; England has decayed to a Middle ages level of society, with remote communities cut off from each other and very little law and order. The novel begins when Greybeard and his wife grow tired of living in the tiny village in which they have sheltered for the past twelve years, and decide to sail down the Thames in the hope of seeing London and the ocean again.

One of my favourite films of the last decade is the brilliant Children of Men, which posits more or less the same scenario, only earlier in the course of events, with the youngest people being in their late teens. (I knew it was based on a book, but according to Greybeard’s introduction, it’s a pretty rubbish one and the film is much better.) Of course, Aldiss had the idea first, since Greybeard is from the 1960s. It presents a pretty compelling and intriguing post-apocalyptic scenario; not one of bleakness and violence, but one where the world is most definitely ending with a whimper rather than a bang. Part of the fun is seeing Greybeard and his companions travelling about and discovering how things are in the rest of post-decline England, with people hawking rejuvenation snake oil and claiming the Scottish are coming down to conquer them.

It’s an interesting enough book but it never quite captured me. It’s bogged down a bit too much by flashbacks throughout Greybeard’s life: his childhood, when the radiation first began, his time in his twenties in the military and later working for an American organisation trying to record humanity’s death throes – unfortunately called DOUCH, made worse when Greybeard works for the English arm, DOUCH(E) – and his time in his forties living in Oxford when the nation-state is beginning to break up and the city is under the sway of a violent dictator. This sounds good in theory, fleshing out the world and the slow decline, but I found that in practice it disrupted the pace and the tone too much. I would have preferred for Greybeard and his friends to just be sailing down the river at the very end of humanity’s story, and only reminiscing about the past through dialogue. I suppose that’s what makes Greybeard feel more like high concept science fiction than a sad, miserable post-apocalyptic story like Children of Men. Aldiss also has a bad habit of clunky exposition – not all the time, but enough that I noticed it.

I still found Greybeard reasonable enough. It’s a creative idea executed with skill, just with enough flaws to stop me from really liking it. I’ll certainly read some of Aldiss’ other works. ( )
2 vote edgeworth | Jul 29, 2014 |
A couple, from a community of sterile 50'ish humans go looking for children in a world repairing itself from the human infestation. As I grow older, I'm fonder of this book, but I read it a good long time ago. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Dec 4, 2013 |
(Borrowed from Janet)
Interesting and well-done; as (seemingly) ever with Aldiss, it is a bit deathy especially at the beginning, but I did enjoy the bits set in and around Oxford, and generally the idea & working through of the slow and inevitable decay of our world due to no new children being born. Not so sure about the ending, seems a bit of an implausible way of injecting a bit of hope into the situation, but hey. ( )
  comixminx | Sep 26, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Aldiss, Brian W.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Griffiths, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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with my love to Clive and Wendy hoping that one day they will understand the story behind this story
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A rifle was slung or his left shoulder by a leather strap.
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Nicht mit "Raum, Zeit und Nathaniel" kombinieren
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