This is a classic farce. Oliver Fox, floppy haired charmer, pretends for a moment to be Dr Norman Wilfred. He is whisked off to a Foundation for Civilisation with twenty four hours to go before he gives the keynote lecture on Scientometrics. Meanwhile the real Dr Wilfred is taken to a remote villa where he finds Oliver's girlfriend.
And it progresses. Bedrooms are hopped. Identities are confused. More girlfriends and boyfirends arrive. Sinister Russian oligarchs are building mysterious swimming pools. Spiros and Stavros are interchangeable Greek taxi drivers.
It should be a play. There are only three scenes: the airport at the start and then the Foundation and the Villa interchangeably.
It is all a little predictable. There are the usual jokes at the expense of academics and anyone rich who spends time at Foundations and Conferences. There is humour mined from the confusion between Greek and English. All the characters are stereotypes: the chef, the American lady who used to be a dancer and married the rich man who bequeathed the money to the foundation, the slightly sad professor, the good time girl, the crisp, cool PA etc.
It becomes interesting for a moment at the start of chapter 48 when the author discusses how the storylines are about to come together in a great denouement and suggests alternative endings. This suggests that Netownian determinism is impossible because of the inherent impossibilities of understanding any single initial state, a theme Frayn also touched upon in his philosophical work 'The Human Touch' (which I disliked). He suggests that only probabilities exist and then casts doubt even on this. This theme of the book has been manifest throughout: Oliver's penchant for pretending to be someone he is not and thereby throwing spanners into all sorts of works and Dr Wilfred's essential belief in predestination.
Skios is quite fun. It is easy to read and lightly humorous. But it is a farce of the old school.
April 2013; 277 pages
- I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57