This isn't just a GOOD book - it's a VERY GOOD book. I'm quite certain of this, because I've read it twice. I read it when I first got it, but stupidly didn't write the review of it then; so today I had to remind myself of it - and was soon engrossed, and read it the whole way through again.
The novel concerns a time-traveller, Rab. He is from the future - a future where space is at a premium, but people live contentedly together; in part because something is put in the water to depress their sexual and other urges. They are protected against the harsher realities of life; they feel no pain, for instance, because each person has a sort of technological guardian called a Com, which protects them and sorts out any problems or glitches.
Rab's mother gives him the latest gadget - a Silver Skin - which will enable him to travel into the past and get lots of useful information for his research project. He decides on the 19th century, but a violent storm interferes with navigation, and he finds himself much, much further back - in Skara Brae, at the point where the Stone Age gives way to the Bronze Age.
The writing is lovely. Here's one little example. This is the 19th century; there is a storm, and Mrs Trevelyan is unable to sleep: "She watched the little flame thrashing on the candle wick and waited for the morning." Thrashing is not a word I would have thought of using, yet it paints the picture of the flickering flame far more effectively than guttering, or indeed flickering - both of which would have been more obvious choices. And the sentence is just beautifully balanced; it works so well.
The earth is entering a cooler phase, and the people are afraid. Without the sun, they cannot perform the ceremonies that enable the dead to depart in peace; they are aware that things are changing, and that the future may be worse than the present - which, of course, has resonances for us. Is the solution which has enabled humanity to survive into Rab's age a viable one for us - would we be prepared to accept the sacrifices it entails?
This really is a book which satisfies on a great many levels. It would be great to study in class - if the curriculum allows!
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