(Gollancz, £6.99, 229 pages, paperback, first published 1990, this
edition 20 June 2002.)
As people were mad for cyberpunk, mad
well. This novel is set on a 5 mile by 2 mile ocean liner that has been
cruising across the ocean to a better world for several generations.
It is constructed out of a series of loosely linked short stories and
is a novel with a plot only in the sense that eventually the mysteries
of the Hope are revealed. A key mystery is how come the ship has not
arrived at its destination. The scenario is barmy really, but appealed
in 1990 because it makes a change from space or dystopian cities of
the future. Not that much of a change really as the physically and morally
decaying environment is pretty similar to many cities and space habitats
of the future -- Manhattan with an engine and 1/10 of the population.
The crude metaphor of the voyage to nowhere seems to me to have been
cynically inserted to appeal to the more simple-minded traits in SF
editors, but a writer has to get published. Like it's real art, but
not too complex or sore on the head and with a high body count. Where
was anyone, in any future of the Earth in 1988, thinking a big ship
was going to find a better life? Ah a metaphor of futility!
Now that the cyberpunk ship has sunk / evolved / founded a new generation
of SF, or whatever, what makes The Hope still worth reading is
the detail of the writing. Characters and scenes are finely depicted,
naturally every rose has a bioengineered carnivorous millipede, etc.
etc., there are some moments of genuine horror (but others of tedious
or derivative gore) and humour. Many sentences are so well written that
I read them twice. In the afterword, James Lovegrove says he wrote it
in six weeks, which is brave to admit for a work that is fundamentally
daft, but well written. His talent is highly visible, but I don't think
that there was much rewriting or editing time in that six weeks. Art
it isnie, worth a read it is.
Review by Richard Hammersley.