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Gråskæg by Brian W. Aldiss

Gråskæg (original 1964; edition 1973)

by Brian W. Aldiss

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6451321,673 (3.47)36
Authors:Brian W. Aldiss
Info:Notabene, 1973.
Collections:Your library

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Greybeard by Brian W. Aldiss (Author) (1964)


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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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.


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 |
This book's theme is very much similar to "The Children of Men" by P. D. James or more correctly it is the other way round as this book was published before "The Children of Men". I haven't read the latter though as there is a general consent out there that the movie for once was better than the book. And having watched the fantastic movie starring brilliant and underrated Clive Owen, I have no plans to read the novel by P. D. James.

Now coming back to this book's review, I could only say that it started off pretty well but kind of dipped in the middle when it became over-preachy and philosophical. But I have to admit that the characters are well developed for such a comparatively short novel. Aldiss relies excessively on human philosophy in the latter half of the novel which cripples the pace somewhat, but that doesn't make this a particularly bad experience. ( )
  Veeralpadhiar | Mar 31, 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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0755100638, Paperback)

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 theselves. Was slighty revised.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Ecological disaster has left the English countryside a wasteland. Humanity faces extinction, unless Greybeard and his wife Martha are successful in their quest for the scarcest and most precious of resources: human children.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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