FINCHES OF MARS is Brian Aldiss’ final science fiction novel. The old boy – whom I met very briefly in Brighton once, and what a luminous gent — intends to retire, and who can blame him, as he’s knocking on ninety and has been writing steadily for something like two-thirds of that time. It’s a peculiar little book that’s had some furious reviews. No characters, no plot, no structure, no blah blah. I think a lot of people didn’t really grasp what was in front of them. It’s a philosophical consideration in the vague shape of a science fiction novel. From some perspectives, a consideration of what a science fiction novel is and has been. You see these, from time to time, and they usually illustrate the point where the writer’s concerns entirely part ways with the audience’s expectations. It has no real answers. It has no real protagonists. It obeys the genre only in the most eccentric ways. It has a four-page lead-in to the best joke in the book, the sort of high-wire act that you can imagine Aldiss giggling over as he set it up. It’s not a science fiction novel, and the sf terminologies and novums he introduces are often almost contemptuous of the form. It’s a literary novel. And, in some ways, I think, an exegesis of sorts, wherein Aldiss circles the summit of the ideas and philosophies he’s arrayed across two centuries. Approach with an open mind and enjoy the meander.