Barefoot in the Head (英語) ペーパーバック – 2001/1/7
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When an undeclared Acid Head War breaks out, Britain is the first to be devastated by Psycho-Chemical Aerosols - tasteless, odourless, colourless psychedelic drugs, which distort the minds of thousands of civilians into extreme terror or extreme joy. When the warped citizens of Europe proclaim Colin Charteris their hero, he finds himself leading an unfathomable crusade in a devastated world.
Brian Wilson Aldiss was born in Norfolk, in 1925. He wrote his first novel, The Brightfount Diaries (1955), while working as a bookseller in Oxford. But he is perhaps better known as one of the most noteworthy voices in science fiction writing. His first work of science fiction, Non-Stop, appeared in 1958. Since then, he has written over 40 novels and 300 short stories, as well as poetry and critical works, and received all of the major science fiction awards. He has reviewed for the Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian and the Washington Post, and he has edited Science Fiction Horizons, as well as several anthologies. Brian Aldiss recently celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday and is presently working on several new books.
It is not by any means an easy read, indeed it is far more experimental in forms and style that many more feted non-sf avant-garde works. The prose and poems (some of which individually are really fine pieces of work) and songs and at times simply patterns of letters that compose the work are fragmentary and fractured - the ravings of minds changed beyond recognition by mind-altering psychotropic weapons. Yet somehow it makes sense: the wrong words start to mean something, you start to establish a vocabulary from random or mistaken strings of words and, although how I am not quite sure, you can even get a deep sense of story and character thorugh all the confusion. At times you just have to sit back with a wry smile and know that Aldiss deserves so much more than to be continually ignored by the snobbish mainstream critics: this guy is a British national treasure, and one of the great writers of the late Twentieth Century in English. The degree of sheer literary craft involved in this work is quite remarkable.
This is a book about culture and religion and drugs and technology and war and so much more: as such it stands with Burroughs' Naked Lunch. Dick's A Scanner Darkly and Delaney's Dhalgren as monuments to the ambiguity of the breakdown of both mind and order and dark side of pure freedom. But somehow it is more adventurous and more daring than any of these works.
Sadly, such an incredible premise is buried under a completely misguided writing endeavor. Aldiss has used this interesting idea to merely experiment with writing techniques that were derivative for their time. The book is 100% 1969 and is showing its age. The stream-of-insanity writing style that Aldiss inflicts on us here is a thinly disguised copy of the groundbreaking works of William Burroughs, plus a little of Philip K. Dick. This is even more evident when you consider that most of Aldiss' other works are more straightforward sci-fi. So the incredible potential of the premise is squandered beneath waves of faddish psychedelic writing style and an exasperating parade of made-up terminology (though I admit I like the adjective "vonnegutsy.") This type of writing has been done successfully, and can bend your mind to extreme proportions, but get it from the originators.
The actual plot elements, theme, and character development of this story could fit into a much more focused short story of twenty pages. This tale had infinitely more potential when it started. A real disappointment.