Somewhere East of Life

Somewhere East of Life
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The final volume of the critically acclaimed Squire Quartet, available for the first time as an ebook.Having abandoned Britain to its recession, architectural historian Roy Burnell operates out of Germany, attempting to hold the world together culturally. Moving around the more outrageous parts of the globe, his task is to list architectural gems threatened by war, history and human awfulness.Such is man’s ingenuity, however, that Burnell’s mind is also threatened. Someone has stolen a chunk of his memory – ten years in fact. This chunk, and in particular the more salacious bits, such as his marriage to Stephanie, has been chopped up, recorded in e-mnemonicvision and sold to lovers of soft porn everywhere.First published in 1994 and unavailable for some time. Features a new introduction by the author.


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Somewhere East of Life


Brian Aldiss, OBE, is a fiction and science fiction writer, poet, playwright, critic, memoirist and artist. He was born in Norfolk in 1925. After leaving the army, Aldiss worked as a bookseller, which provided the setting for his first book, The Brightfount Diaries (1955). His first published science fiction work was the story ‘Criminal Record’, which appeared in Science Fantasy in 1954. Since then he has written nearly 100 books and over 300 short stories, many of which are being reissued as part of The Brian Aldiss Collection.

Several of Aldiss’ books have been adapted for the cinema; his story ‘Supertoys Last All Summer Long’ was adapted and released as the film AI in 2001. Besides his own writing, Brian has edited numerous anthologies of science fiction and fantasy stories, as well as the magazine SF Horizons.

Aldiss is a vice-president of the international H. G. Wells Society and in 2000 was given the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Aldiss was awarded the OBE for services to literature in 2005. He now lives in Oxford, the city in which his bookselling career began in 1947.

Brian Aldiss

Somewhere East of Life


with love

to Felicity and Alex bearers of fruits from Kidlington and Osh



Somewhere East of Life

Title Page




1 Friends in Sly Places

2 Murder in a Cathedral

3 Bishops Linctus


5 Some Expensive Bullets

6 Soss City

7 ‘The Dead One’

8 Looking for a Postcard

9 A Head Among the Throng

10 ‘Time Had Run Out’

11 ‘The Madonna of Futurity’

12 A Crowded Stage

13 Richard and Blanche

14 In the Korean Fast Foot

15 Makhtumkuli Day

16 Burnell Speaks!

17 Glimpse of Airing Cupboard

18 The Friendship Bridge

19 A Toe and a Tow

20 PRICC Strikes

21 Subterfuge

22 A Brief Discourse on Justice

23 To the Krasnovodsk Station

24 Singing in the Train

25 Snow in the Desert

26 The Executioner

27 Squire Ad Libs

28 Open to the Public

29 ‘Newcastle’

Author’s Note




About the Publisher


When you reach the point of no return there’s nothing for it but to go back.

Old Goklan saying


In this, the final novel of the Squire Quartet, time has moved on slightly.

We meet Roy Burnell beside his friend’s hospital bed. Burnell is employed by WACH, the World Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, which looks after precious things liable to be lost or lost already.

But soon among those lost things is Burnell’s memory. A thief has criminally but adroitly stolen a year of it through an illegal e-mnemonicvision operation.

Burnell has lost twelve vital months of his past. He summons his wife, Stephanie, though memory of her, including all scenes of their love-making, has gone. She comes, and Burnell learns they have been divorced.

E-mnemonicvision is one among the many ‘visions’ generated by technology in this novel. Memories can now be stored electronically and re-used; thieves sell them as pornography.

Partly to escape imprisonment in the present, Burnell accepts a WACH consignment to document an ancient church in Georgia. The church reputedly contains an old and valuable ikon – the Madonna of Futurity.

So Burnell goes to Georgia. Much of it has become a battlefield – ‘Moral emptiness. That’s what the world’s suffering from,’ one character claims.

Burnell eventually finds the ikon. It has been broken into three pieces, all carefully preserved.

For reward, Burnell is sent on a new assignment to Turkmenistan, a place I had never visited. I hired a researcher, who turned up such interesting facts about this little-known country that I determined to go there. It happened that I had a learned friend, Dr Youssef Azimun, who at one time had served as Cultural Director for the new Turkmenistan government, but he had proved so popular that the President – more about him in a moment – had dismissed him. I flew with Youssef and a lady from the BBC called Sue to Ashkhabad, the capital city, almost the only city, since much of Turkmenistan is occupied by the Black Sand – the Kara-kum Desert.

The Soviets had ruled the five trans-Caspian states for nearly seventy years. Now they had gone, leaving behind a strange legacy. After an earthquake in 1948, the Soviets had repaired much of the city of Ashkhabad. Some streets were rather pretty, with rows of small trees and little gutters of water running to cool the temperature. Curiously, the air was full of nostalgic cuckoo calls. Though the Turks were Muslim, after the long Russian stay they downed their vodka like true Moscovites.

Unfortunately – or so I was told – the head of the KGB had stayed on, dubbing himself President, while the KGB rechristened themselves the People’s Popular Party. Plus ça change, etc …

President Niyazov had a gold-plated statue built of himself, which rotated slowly so that it always faced the sun. Though he was clearly dotty, he seemed well-enough liked. He gave the citizens free salt; later free electricity. Yet, there seemed to be no attempt to build up any infrastructure – no hospital, I was told. Instead, a row of five or six hotels, all very similar and all without telephones – vital instruments in the days before mobile phones.

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