Time Must Have a Stop, by Aldous Huxley

Second paragraph of third chapter:

‘Evening clothes were a class symbol, and it was a crime to spend money on useless luxuries when people as good as oneself were starving!’ Sebastian knew in advance what his father’s arguments would be. But behind the arguments was the man—dominating and righteous, hard on others because even harder on himself. If the man were approached in the right way, perhaps the arguments would not be pressed home to their logical conclusion. The great thing, Sebastian had learnt from long and bitter experience, was never to seem too anxious or insistent. He must ask for the dinner jacket—but in such a way that his father wouldn’t think that he really longed for it. That, he knew, would be to invite a refusal—nominally, of course, on the score of economy and socialist ethics, but really, he had come to suspect, because his father took a certain pleasure in thwarting the too explicit manifestations of desire. If he managed to avoid the pitfall of over-eagerness, perhaps he would be able to talk his father out of the other, avowable reasons for refusal. But it would take good acting to bring it off, and a lot of finesse, and above all that presence of mind in which, at moments of crisis, he was always so woefully lacking. But perhaps if he worked out a plan of campaign in advance, a piece of brilliant and inspired strategy …

I had got this last year on the basis that it had been published in 1944 and might therefore feature on that year's Retro Hugo list (I was deputy administrator). In the end it got only four votes (though another 1.5 nominating points would have seen it on the ballot). But in fact it's not very sfnal, the non-realistic bit being a character who dies about half way through and then tries to communicate with the living, to no avail. It's also not terribly interesting, being a story of beautiful and selfish teenager Sebastian who tries to slake his lusts with older women and also get a dinner jacket from his leftie London father and his rich uncle in Italy. Huxley probably thought he was being funny, but the humour has not really lasted. You can get it here.

I had this (incorrectly as it turns out) at the top of my unread sf books pile, but also at the top of my bought-in-2020 pile. Next on those lists respectively are Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve, and Paul: A Biography, by Tom Wright.

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