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The Hope

by James Lovegrove

(Gollancz, 6.99, 229 pages, paperback, first published 1990, this edition 20 June 2002.)

As people were mad for cyberpunk, mad cover scansold 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.

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