Non-Stop (novel)

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Non-Stop
NonStop.jpg
First edition
Author Brian Aldiss
Cover artist Peter Curl
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Science fiction
Publisher Faber and Faber
Publication date
1958
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 252
OCLC 189639078
823/.914 22
LC Class PR6051.L3 N66 2005

Non-Stop is a 1958 science fiction novel by Brian Aldiss. It was the author's first novel. Originally published by Faber & Faber, it has been since been reprinted by a numbers of publishers in the UK and U.S. A number of U.S. paperback editions were published with the title Starship.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

The novel's protagonist, Roy Complain, lives in a culturally-primordial tribe where curiosity is discouraged and life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. With a small group, he leaves his home and ventures into uncharted territory. The consequent discoveries will change his perception of the entire universe.

Complain's small tribe roam nomadically through corridors overrun by vegetation. After his wife is kidnapped, a tribal priest named Marapper encourages Complain to join a furtive expedition into the unexplored corridors. It is Marapper's belief that they are all living on board a moving space-craft, and that if they can reach the control room they will gain command of the entire, gargantuan vessel.

On their journey, the group encounters other tribes, of varying levels of sophistication. Complain is also briefly captured by humanoid 'Giants' of legend, who release him with no explanation.

Complain's party eventually join the more sophisticated society of the 'Forwards'. Here they learn that the space-craft is a multi-generational starship returning from the newly colonised planet of Procyon. In a previous generation, the ship's inhabitants had suffered from a pandemic due to an alien amino acid found in the waters of Procyon. Law and order began to collapse and knowledge of the ship and its purpose was eventually almost entirely lost throughout the vessel. 23 generations have passed since this 'Catastrophe'.

The Forwards have uncertain knowledge of 'Giants' who, though feared, are generally considered to be benevolent. Other mysterious beings, termed 'Outsiders', are thought to infiltrate the human world from an unknown place and are reviled as enemies. However, when the Giants attack a Forward crew-member, the humans conclude that the Giants and Outsiders are colluding against humanity, and prepare to retaliate in force. Meanwhile, Complain and his developing romantic interest Vyann (a Forward officer) learn that the space-craft should only have taken six generations to return to Earth. Aware that 23 generations have passed since the epidemic, they despairingly deduce that the entire space-craft is now plummeting irredeemably into the cold expanse of infinite space. Although they find the ship's control centre, all the mechanisms have been destroyed.

The Forwards briefly engage the Giants, however the conflict quickly ends. It is then revealed that the ship has been moored outside Earth's atmosphere for a number of years. The 'Giants' are merely normal sized Earth-humans who have been attempting to improve the conditions of the ship's inhabitants by slowly repairing the vessel. The 'Outsiders' are unusually short humans from Earth who have infiltrated the ship's various societies in order to study the development of their civilization. The rulers of Earth have been reluctant to integrate the ship-dwellers into Earth's civilization, because the epidemic survivors have mutated to live at a rate four times faster than Earth's population. However, the recent battle on board the space-craft has caused it to begin an emergency split into its composite parts, ensuring that the entire population will now be granted a new start on planet Earth.

Reception[edit]

Galaxy reviewer Floyd C. Gale gave the novel a mixed review, rating the book 3 1/2 stars out of five and faulting "the shock ending [which] is abrupt and leaves so much unanswered."[2]

In 2000, the book was re-published as part of the SF Masterworks series.

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