Keith Roberts Jonathan Meades - Essay

Jonathan Meades

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

As seems to be the all too frequent case with SF writers Keith Roberts is full of excellent and imaginative ideas yet executes his stories—which are, for the most part, nothing more than vehicles for them, or dramatic illustrations of them—with a singular lack of style and conviction. The first half of [Machines and Men] comprises pieces concerned with intrusions on the 'normal order'. These intrusions are natural—the basic elements of SF can be counted on the fingers of one (human) hand—of a temporal, technological and telepathic nature. Anxious to provide recognisable, safe and ordinary contemporary backdrops as a contrast to the phenomenal events depicted the author sets three stories in provincial English towns and peoples them with characters who might be best described as saloon bar odd-balls…. These mostly unappealing characters find themselves involved in adventures of strange, bizarre, weird and totally predictable sorts. The best service the reviewer can render Roberts is to list his ideas, his initial premises, his really quite inspired fancies. They include murder by telepathy …, a form of cinematic representation which goes far beyond 3-D, the use of subliminal data in feature films and the delightful device for improving a car's performance employed by a shipwrecked navigator from outer space who lands in the Black Country….

The stories in 'Man' are all set in future and distinctly dystopian...

(The entire section is 523 words.)