I hadn't read any Amis before (either of them), but I've wanted to try Kingsley for a while; mainly for his SF connections, but when I saw this in a second-hand bookshop I thought it might be a good place to start.
This one isn’t SF, of course. Instead, it’s described as a “comic novel”.
I have to say that I found very little in it to laugh at.
Oh, the odd chortle, or wry grin, certainly; in particular there is a description of a hangover that has been quoted often enough that I recognised it in its entirety.
But our national sense of humour must have changed since 1954, or something. Not to mention a great deal more about our society and the way we interact. At times in this novel I found it harder to understand the motivations of the characters than of the most alien of characters in SF (well, ok, not to the extent of ‘The Dance of the Changer and the Three’, say, but anything less than that).
That’s no bad thing, but since it wasn’t the intent of the author, that sense of confusion or dislocation can leave you feeling lost. This is quite different from the effect you can get in good SF, where you’re thrown in at the deep end, not quite knowing what’s going on. There, you just hang on and enjoy the ride, trusting in the knowledge that it’ll become clear in time.
In this case there’s no hope of an explanation, because Amis didn’t realise that the behaviour of his sexually stilted 1950s academics would be quite so opaque and mysterious to a reader in the zero-years of the 21st century (why didn’t they just go to bed, already?)
Still, as a gentle rom-com, it wasn’t too bad.