A HISTORY MAKER by Alasdair Gray


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 From the always original Gray (Ten Tales Tall and True, 1994, etc.), allegorical musings on war masquerading as a rambunctious novel set in 23rd-century Scotland, which, here, more resembles the Highlands in the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Despite the science-fictional gizmos and chat of intergalactic travel, life round St. Mary's Loch in the year 2220 is more reminiscent of the time when kilted clans armed with claymores butchered each other for a bit of heath. Among other things, they're still fighting, though for different objectives; their talk is sprinkled with archaisms; and their appetites, sexual and otherwise, are lustily premodern. War has become a spectator sport, complete with rules made in Geneva and commented on by the so- called Public Eye that--like the Goodyear blimp at a football game- -relays the contest to a watching world. Those who choose to colonize space are granted immortality, while mortals like hero warrior Wat Dryhope live lives of ``tragic sweetness'' haunted by the past. When Wat is appointed chief of the Ettrick clan after a bitter battle that few survive, he worries that war is becoming both too costly and too attractive. Though he enjoys the comfort of women (the sexual arrangements are fluid and generous) and the stability they give society--women maintain the power plants that create the food--he has, until he meets the diabolical Delilah Puddock, ``wanted danger, not safety.'' But after an encounter with Delilah, who, wanting to restore the ``competitive exploration of human resources,'' infects Wat with a virus that almost destroys the world's food supply, he gives up fighting and takes to farming. An accompanying set of Notes and Glossary adds a touch of scholarly verisimilitude. A journey to the future, with an edge blunted by whimsy but nonetheless sly and startling as Gray turns history on its head.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-15-100207-X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1996


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