Part of the fun of this elegant, truly humorous, yet serious book is viewing how Perian rejects the notion of change while he imperceptibly inches toward it. Brian Aldiss enables the reader to identify with this antiheroic hero and thus empathize with his richly endowed amalgam of art and life. Once obdurately opposed to change of any kind, in the end Perian comes to accept its necessity. Although change might mean the destruction of the society he has known throughout his life, he is willing to face whatever it might bring—war, the destruction of his ordered society, or the vast unknown outside the circumscribed walls of Malacia. He even considers joining an underground organization dedicated to bringing about change.
The identity of the artist who created the art piece that is the embalmed Malacian society becomes one of Aldiss’ most intriguing questions. Readers learn in the novel that God, the ostensible creator of the universe, is the intruder into this society and that Malacia is, in point of fact, the creation of the Adversary, Satan. Aldiss thus raises the age-old Manichean problem of whether evil can indeed be creative. As if to illustrate that, unconsciously, the people of the city realize—and perhaps unconsciously reject—their “diabolic” background, in Malacia the Ancestral Beings are reptilian. Indeed, citizens, with great irony on Aldiss’ part, often go on hunts for them in the Juracia, a primitive forest directly outside the...
(The entire section is 470 words.)