Trouble with Lichen – review

Trouble With Lichen

John Wyndham

Truoble With Lichen

I first heard about this book in Year 10 at school, so around 1985.  I must have been reading another John Wyndham book at the time, possible Day of The Triffids, when my English teacher came up to me and suggested that I read Trouble With Lichen.  Well I never did get around to reading it…until now.  I recently discovered this copy in a Goodwill shop, and picked it up for 50c.  It’s a First Edition, First Printing, but pretty beat up being an ex-library book.  Onto the story..

This is not like any other Wyndham book I have read.  It is only Science Fiction in the sense that the main element of the book, a life-extending treatment derived from a rare lichen, does not exist.  The technology in the book is very Sixties, but the concept of a millionaire techno-genius entrepreneur is very modern indeed.  If this wasn’t written so long ago I’d swear it was about Elon Musk.

The crux is the book is a sociological conundrum…given a rare life saving treatment that cannot be mass distributed, who gets access to it?  I won’t spoil the book, but will say this is worth reading if you don’t mind a slower pace…we go through patents stressing over their too smart (for society) daughter, to job interviews, to domestic arguments, with only a cursory glace at SF…But that is the point of the book, how science affects people and affects society, rather than the science itself.

So thanks Mr Cuthbertson, I finally got to read it and you were right.


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