2 JULY 1994, Page 24

What also fills the book, and with consid- erably more

interest, is a churning set of four narrative voices. This is a Joycean, a Rushdiesque novel, with the elastic of a mixed-doubles final. The book opens with someone coming back to life: I'm an ankle man myself'

They had anyway so little time that any inter- ruption at all to the programme might prove disastrous, and while in her lowest moments she sometimes suspected such an interrup- tion was almost inevitable, she was deter- mined to do all in her power to ensure that if it did befall them it would not be for want of any diligence on her part.

Move over, Henry James. For one of the paradoxes of a lot of science fiction writing is that while it purports to tell us about the future, it does so in language borrowed from the past. Doubtless this is why it sells so well. It is perhaps not quite enough of a commonplace that the old and putatively redundant satisfactions of The Novel are now to be most easily found in genre fiction.