(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Amis, one of the most prolific writers of his time, produced more than twenty novels, including Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure (1968, as by Robert Markham); a detective story, The Riverside Villas Murder (1973); and a science-fiction novel, The Alteration (1976). Other novels have elements of fantasy, but The Green Man focuses on the supernatural in the traditional sense. Not only do Underhill, appropriately dating from the era of witch trials, and his familiar, the Green Man, play crucial roles, but a literal divine intervention brings about the climaxes and resolution of the plot.

Amis professes to write a serious ghost story, so his first obligation is to establish realism. Thus, his fictional Fareham is off the A595 road and a few miles from the actual towns of Sardon and Mill End. St. Michael’s College is near the corner of Silver Street in Cambridge. Allingham’s interview with God lasts exactly twenty-four minutes, and readers know the prices on his menu as well as the source of produce for the kitchen. Most real, however, is Amis’ characterization of Allingham.

Although scarcely likable, Maurice Allingham at fifty-three is completely credible. He admits to drinking a bottle of Scotch a day for twenty years, accounting for much of his behavior and such symptoms as convulsive twitches, hallucinations, and blackouts. Moreover, Allingham, a typical alcoholic, is preoccupied with his own needs to the exclusion of others. Even his success at getting Diana and his wife in the same bed with him results more from egotism than from desire. This...

(The entire section is 662 words.)