Non-Stop is a novel that craftily develops from a fantasy slant to harder science fiction as the plot develops. The change runs in parallel to the lead character's journey of discovery, as he gradually learns the truth about the world he lives in.
Roy Complain, our protagonist, begins life as a hunter in the Greene Tribe. His days are spent hunting pigs and other wildlife in the ponics, the omnipresent jungle-like undergrowth that makes up his world. Living in Quarters, the tribe slowly cut through the ponics, moving their village with them. Their lives are governed by superstition and fear of strangers, the mutants, Outsiders, Forwards and Giants who are rumoured to be out there waiting to attack.
What holds the tribe together, aside from safety in numbers, is the Teaching. This is their religion, their moral code and their greatest problem. For the Teaching says no man must think too much, they should not ask too many questions or develop theories. Theories are dangerous things. Life in Quarters is not generally happy or easy.
This is how Aldiss sets the scene, but from this point on Complain finds his world changes in a series of total paradigm shifts. He hears the ravings of a mad man, begins to connect vague legends with his new experiences and learns to think for himself. As things come to a head he learns the ultimate reason for his world's existence even as its whole essence is breaking up around him.
A novel of betrayal, discovery and treachery, Aldiss also manages to squeeze in questions about human nature, cruelty and the way your perspective on a situation can almost define it.
- I highly recommend this book.