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Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham
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Trouble with Lichen (1960)

by John Wyndham

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To be anthropological about it: the present primary social role of western woman is as wife; her secondary status is as mother; in upper and middle classes her tertiary status is sometimes that of companion – in other classes companionship can come a long way down the list, and in most nonwestern nations it scarcely rates at all.

Written in 1960, this book about the discovery of a method to extend life by 3 or 5 times is full of interesting ideas, for example that living for two or three hundred years would allow many more women to have fulfilling careers instead of being housewives, but would be extremely unpopular with the trade unions whose members would have to work for decades longer. Unfortunately, the plot is not as strong as the ideas and the main characters are both two-dimensional and not very likeable, so this is my least favourite of John Wyndham's novels. ( )
1 vote isabelx | Nov 6, 2016 |
Could have sworn I had read this in teh 70's hence my noting that

But I read it just now but I have no recollection of it at all.

Was a fantastic read. A difficult problem to solve. The ambiguity of the potential solutions ( and there are not just 2) is demonstrated perfectly .

I like Whyndamand this is up with the best me thinks

Big ship
6 Feb 2016 ( )
  bigship | Feb 6, 2016 |
I'd not heard of this John Wyndham work until one of my work colleagues lent me a copy of it. The storyline is one covering aging, feminism, scientific responsibility and social upheaval. The two scientists at the core of the story make a chance discovery of a rare Chinese lichen that appears to slow down metabolic aging. Initially it just stops milk turning and it is viewed as a possible antibotic, but the two scientists then independently determine its real effects.

The story looks at how these two scientists both decide that they can't simply publish the results, how they hide it for a number of years and then how news of it eventually leaks out. Once in the public realm it becomes a topic of public policy, class war and female empowerment discussions. But there's a twist thanks to the rarity of the source lichen...

Its a good solid John Wyndham story with an easy to follow storyline. The characters appear a little stilted at times, but that's probably a result of seeing a possible future through mid-to-upper class voices from the 1950s & 60s. ( )
  jimll | Aug 26, 2014 |
Trouble with Lichen didn't strike me as quite as readable as Wyndham's other books, but the prominence of female characters/concerns was a welcome surprise. The plot is a bit different to Wyndham's other books, too. You might be excused, knowing Wyndham's other books, for thinking that this is a book about lichen taking over the world, but this isn't one of his post-apocalyptic efforts.

If you've enjoyed Wyndham's other stuff, this is a bit different, but equally enjoyable, I think. The science isn't too stunningly out of date or anything like that; Wyndham's writing is perhaps a little more stilted here than I remember it being in other books, but I enjoyed his hold on characters and relationships more. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
A perennial favourite re-read. On this time round, particularly liked how Wyndham sneaks a lot of feminism into it.

The questions that Wyndham raises about how this discovery would change the world are very of its time, of course. Questions that I would expect a contemporary version of this to raise would include: more about the international dimension (not just what would Russia and China do to ensure their share of the wonderdrug, but also what impact would it have on developing nations), more about the possible impact on the wider environment (what if the anti-g effect also leaked into the lifecycle of pests or other animals generally?), to name only two. ( )
2 vote comixminx | Apr 4, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Wyndhamprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brown, Robert S.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giovanopoulos, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffiths, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lord, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, RichardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willock, HarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The present primary social role of western women is as wife: her secondary status is as mother; in upper and middle classes her tertiary status is sometimes that of companion.
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It came from a lichen, a simple rock-loving plant made of fungi and algae. When biochemist Francis Saxover discovered its remarkable properties, the implications terrified him.

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Penguin Australia

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