The storyline is one covering aging, feminism, scientific responsibility and social upheaval. The two scientists at the core of the story make a chance discovery of a rare Chinese lichen that appears to slow down metabolic aging.
It has been even more rewarding than I anticipated. So far, my rereads have all been books I enjoyed when I first read them.
But this time I decided to reread a book I did not enjoy at all. Why would I do such a silly thing with my limited reading time? As a child, I was an above average reader, but naturally my reading skills continued to develop through adulthood as well, so the way I read now is obviously superior to the way I read decades ago.
I wanted to see if I would like the book now that I could fully understand it.
As it turns out, I am in agreement with my younger self about how tedious this novel is. If this had not been an experiment, I would have abandoned it after the first chapter or two. But I wanted to carry out the experiment, so I persevered. I know one of the factors in my earlier dislike of the novel was that I was expecting something quite different from what I got.
That of course is not a factor in my current dislike.
I have learned not to evaluate a book based on what I thought it would be rather than what it actually is. It might be a perfectly delicious soup that I would have enjoyed as an appetizer had I known what it was. And so it is with books. But even if I had let go of those expectations, there was still the other factor in my dislike: Reading it with an open mind this time, I felt that the writing style was painfully didactic.
At least the characters being subjected to this disquisition got a good luncheon. I think I at least deserve some avocado toast and maybe a cup of minestrone for having put up with this book.
As much as this novel was a chore to finish, I will give Wyndham credit for two things. I do like the premise of the story. I think it was poorly executed, but I can see what drew me to the book in the first place.
I also appreciate his feminist message, although it was heavy-handed and downright preachy at times.
And what of my experiment? Unfortunately, rereading this did not help me connect with my younger self the way some of my other rereads did. I thought that perhaps even if I disliked the book the second time around, the experience of rereading it would stir up something meaningful like a memory or an insight, even a vague one.But Francis is not so devastated as all that.
He is also tinkering with the lichen, and he and Diana independently come up with the same conclusion: they may have discovered a natural anti-aging compound – “antigerone”. Trouble With Lichen by John Wyndham ~ This edition: Penguin, ish.
Paperback. ISBN: pages. Okay, let me say this right up front, so you’ll know I’m coming from a place of love in the critique which follows.
I am a John Wyndham fan.
I like science fiction as a genre and at one time read an awful lot of it. Wyndham cleverly mimicked this in Trouble with Lichen with the Soviets desperately trying to take credit for the discovery of Lichenin, despite having nothing to back up their claim.
Trouble with Lichen is equally, almost spookily, far-sighted. It too points to a number of themes of modern living that remained on the socio-cultural agenda throughout the latter half of the 20th century and continue to do so in the twenty-first. John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris (10 July – 11 March ) was an English science fiction writer known for writing The Day of the Triffids, the novel for which Brian Aldiss (perhaps unfairly) coined the term "Cosy Catastrophe".
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