TITLE: TROUBLE WITH LICHEN
AUTHOR: JOHN WYNDHAM
Details: Read for The Loft Bookshop Book Club
First published in 1963
When Francis Saxover and Diana Brackley, two scientists, independently but simultaneously discover that rare lichen has the properties necessary to extend human life-expectancy quite dramatically, they have very different ways of dealing with the fact.
While Saxover is determined to keep the discovery a secret, fearing that public knowledge of the discovery will lead to chaos, Diana is determined to use the lichen to empower women and enhance their role in a male dominated society.
However, with the lichen being very rare and a synthetic version unavailable this is a treatment that will only be available to the privileged few. When knowledge of the treatment and its effects becomes public knowledge problems soon emerge and the situation becomes potentially explosive. Will Diana be able to make her dream of empowering women come true, or will her revelations result in chaos and violence?
This was an interesting book. The idea of a product that can extend human life by several hundred years is fascinating and the author spends a great deal of time going over the implications such a discovery would have for society. At times this leads to the story reading more like a scientific or political manifest rather than a novel.
There are more examples of places where this book read more like a work of non-fiction, with the main character’s responses and thoughts being reported more than narrated. The extracts from newspapers and the long explanations both Saxover and Brackley give for their decisions have the same result.
There is at least one story-line in the book that is introduced and subsequently not really resolved, which I found a bit frustrating.
On the other hand, I found it fascinating that a male author would write a book with such a strong emphasis on the rights of women, especially given that the book was first published in the 1960’s.
I could have done with the story and characters drawing me in more. I felt like a distant observer to what was happening and didn’t connect with any of the characters. This was a bit disappointing since I like it when a book grabs me to such an extend that I start to feel like I’m part of the story.
Overall I have to say that I enjoyed reading this book, and will probably find myself thinking about the implications of the ideas in it for some time to come.