Brian Aldiss, science fiction giant, has stated that Finches of Mars will be his final book. It’s set in a future in which overpopulation, extreme weather and war have made life on Earth pretty unbearable. Since the political leaders seem to have abandoned all reason, the Universities of the world unite and pool their resources to fund a project to colonise Mars. They find some water, build a few towers and fill them with Earth’s best and brightest.
Pets are banned due to the diseases they carry and religion is banned because it tends to destroy civilisations. Other than that, the colony is a liberal, pacifist paradise which is just as well because once you’re there, you can’t return to earth.
There’s a problem though. No healthy babies have been born on Mars and if they survive past birth at all, it’s never for very long. To make matters worse, things back home on Earth are spiralling out of control. Since the colony appears pretty doomed anyway, it slips off of the priority-list. All they can do is hope to find some proof that life on Mars is possible.
“Without children, no future, no permanence…”
The story itself is quite interesting and it’s easy to identify with such a desperate situation. In this respect at least, my will to see humanity survive kept me going. In places, Aldiss raises some very interesting questions and I found myself stopping for a wee think every now and then.
So what was my problem with it?
I’ve never read Brian Aldiss before but, given his reputation, I can only assume that there are better titles in his backlist. My main gripe is with the dialogue, which I found a little unconvincing, but maybe that’s just a thing with the genre. People perhaps expect that in the future, conversation will have evolved into something we, in 2013, find flowery and unrealistic.
The ending, about which I’ll reveal little, is intended to give us hope, to restore our faith in humanity’s ability to overcome adversity. To me, it felt like something improbable had been dumped into the story with little warning just to bring it to an end.
All that said it did indeed get excellent reviews, so maybe I just didn’t get it. Maybe it’s because I read it on my phone and couldn’t give it the same level of attention as I might an actual book.
Maybe I’m just not that clever.
I can’t help wondering, however, if his last book would have received the same praise if it had been his first book.
We’ll never know.
Whatever the case, I haven’t given up on Brian and I’ll try one of his earlier titles some time. If you have any recommendations yourself, you know what to do.