Reviews of Long Afternoon of Earth, the (1961)
Review by ropie (2006-08-28)
This is a difficult book to get into. We are dropped straight into the strange, far distant jungle of the Earth millions of years in the future, where vegetables have evolved and now rule. Animals are sparse and tribal and humans have diminished to just a few disparate groups. The background to the story is the gigantic, single Banyan tree - a habitat that covers almost half the planet, repleat with parasitic and deadly vegetable life.
Aldiss was part of the British 'new wave' of science fiction writers of the 1960s. What this means to us in the 21st Century is that his writing is experimental, lucid, unusual. The ideas rule the story and drive the plot forwards through a series of leaps of the imagination. And this book is packed full of ideas - from flying vegetable versions of birds, to a tribe of underdeveloped humans connected to a tree that feeds and nutures them (the hilarious tummy-belly men). Aldiss reels off theories about what may happen in the future of the planet, some of them terrifyingly feasible, others little more than random speculation, but all are interesting and well formulated.
Once you start to absorb the strands of the tale the story really takes off. the second half of the book is looser and more enjoyable than the first half so it is worth sticking with. A word of warning though: Aldiss is not gentle with his characters and not shy to show us their shortcomings, or how expendable they are.