Jocasta, by Brian Aldiss

Second paragraph of third chapter:

It was a broken land, uninhabited, the land called Phocis through which they were passing.

(Longer extract here.)

Resuming regular bookblogging, at least until I work through the backlog.

While I am here, I want to respond to a comment from a friend on Facebook who queried my habit of linking to Amazon here for the books that I review. (Unless they are only available elsewhere.) Yes, I know that Amazon has many problems, and I deleted all my reviews from their site back in 2010. But the fact is that every book bought through one of my links gives me a small Amazon credit – not a lot, a pound every couple of months, but it’s the only physical reward I get for writing my blog. I don’t have a lot of other options for ordering English-language books by mail, especially now that Brexit has made it much more difficult to purchase from UK suppliers who haven’t done the EU paperwork. I’m always on the lookout for alternatives, but haven’t yet found any.

Anyway, this was one of the books I got Brian Aldiss to autograph in Forbidden Planet in 2015, a year before he died, published in 2004. It’s a retelling of the Theban Plays, but told largely from the point of view of Jocasta, Oedipus’s wife and mother, as her family and her world disintegrate. It also includes a short story relating the Antigone narrative to political oppression today.

I really enjoyed both parts. The Jocasta story is particularly strong, the title character dealing with supernatural creatures loose in the palace, her aged grandmother communing with the old powers, her teenage children being brats, appearances from Sophocles and other voices from the future, and the claws of destiny slowly closing around her husband. Long long ago I saw Pasolini’s Edipo Re (a very unsuccessful first date), and I’m sure that Aldiss was familiar with it too, as I am sure I detected echoes of it. The Antigone postscript takes a different approach with mixed timelines, but I enjoyed it too. You can get it here. (And here’s a longer review from the Spectator.)

This was the sf book that had lingered longest unread on my shelves. Next on that pile: Aldiss’s Complete Short Stories: The 1950s.