Even for a collection of Brian Aldiss stories, Common Clay is unconventional. Many of these tales are interrelated, linked by their themes of life, death, and transformation. Commentary between the narratives shows how such themes are explored in storytelling - and, in one of the most amusing links, how a story may be stretched out until long after bedtime. The twenty stories almost become chapters in a long, curious, decidedly odd novel. Sometimes they are domestic, as in the tense "Making My Father Read Revered Writings"; sometimes they are startling and horrific, as in "Horse Meat." The disastrous human traits that make life infernal are here, as in "The Mistakes, Miseries and Misfortunes of Mankind," and so too are designs for a happier state of existence, as in "Three Moon Enigmas" and "Her Toes Were Beautiful on the Mountains." As is usual with Mr. Aldiss, humor is not lacking here, as in the profoundly Shakespearean "If Hamlet's Uncle Had Been a Nicer Guy," which demonstrates that the Prince of Denmark was losing the Battle of the Bulge, and in the bizarre glimpse of a cost-conscious heaven in "Evans in His Moment of Glory."
Used availability for Brian Aldiss's The Secret of This Book
March 1996 : USA Hardback
October 1995 : UK Hardback
November 1996 : UK Paperback