Shikasta by Doris Lessing - review by Jonathan Keates

Jonathan Keates




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I suppose I ought to declare my partiality at once and say that I don't like science fiction. Yes, I include even Olaf Stapledon, J. G. Ballard and others in the quality bracket. It is not just that it has now achieved the same bandwagon status among the lettered public that football enjoyed during the sixties, a decade when it was thought necessary to tell us, in all solemnity, that such and such a cabinet minister, theologian, philosopher or musician was a keen Spurs supporter or always stayed in for Match of the Day. Nor is it the sheer ghastly fecundity of writers themselves, scratching their inventive itches with an abandon worthy of Barbara Cartland or the late Enid Blyton. 'They'll be back, those naughty girls,' says a French mistress at the end of Ms. Blyton's Second Form At Mallory Towers: 'She was right, they will,' adds the author triumphantly, in a spirit which seems to have transferred itself to the Inter-Galactic School.

Perhaps it is simply that the science so often blurs the fiction, and that old-fashioned goodies in the way of character development, moral ambiguity, pauses for description and careful pacing of dialogue, all too easily disappear before

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