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Trouble with Lichen

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  3,654 ratings  ·  224 reviews
A satirical and fantastical foray into world of biochemistry and the discovery of the cure for aging. An outstanding, classic science fiction text.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published May 31st 1973 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1960)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
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 ·  3,654 ratings  ·  224 reviews


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Susan Budd
For the past few years I have peppered my reading with rereads from my youth. It has been even more rewarding than I anticipated. So far, my rereads have all been books I enjoyed when I first read them. But this time I decided to reread a book I did not enjoy at all.

Why would I do such a silly thing with my limited reading time? Well, let’s say it was an experiment. The only things I remembered about Trouble with Lichen, besides the general premise and a few random details, were that I didn’t
...more
Nikki
Sep 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Trouble with Lichen didn't strike me as quite as readable as Wyndham's other books, but the prominence of female characters/concerns was a welcome surprise. The plot is a bit different to Wyndham's other books, too. You might be excused, knowing Wyndham's other books, for thinking that this is a book about lichen taking over the world, but this isn't one of his post-apocalyptic efforts.

If you've enjoyed Wyndham's other stuff, this is a bit different, but equally enjoyable, I think. The science
...more
Arielle Walker
Jan 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
3.5

I'm fast becoming a fan of Wyndham's works. This is a lot more thought provoking than Day of the Triffids, though I will confess to enjoying it far less. Though it comes across a little preachy at times, Trouble With Lichens is nonetheless interesting, funny (at times), relevant and thought provoking, and I can honestly confess that I did not see that end coming.
John
Dec 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book ahead of its time. Very strong female character with Diana. A biochemist who discovers the elixir of life. A lichen which extends one’s life by a few hundred years. The book is a satire and funny in places especially the newspapers and their fake news.

The premise of the plot is novel but lacks a bit of punch in the delivery. However, it is thought provoking and I think close to the mark of what might happen if anyone discovered a drug to extend life. Of course the lichen is rare so the
...more
Kaitlin
Finished this one a little while ago and I enjoyed the questions it asked and the ramifications explored in a world where people really could live forever if they were lucky.
I've enjoyed all the books by Wyndham I've read and I recommend him for a cosy sci fi story. 3.5*s
Shannon
Feb 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was written by the guy who wrote Day of the Triffids, and we should all know what I think of that book by now [it's awesome to the power eleventy billion]. I was expecting something along similar lines – an out of control plant species runs amok, humanity is threatened, and we are forced to face the moral questions that come along with fighting for survival in an increasingly cruel world.

That’s not what Trouble With Lichen is about at all, though I did keep imagining this silent creep
...more
Robert
Aug 31, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I read several Wyndham novels when I was 12 or 13 - this was one of them. My recollection of those novels was that they were enjoyable but tended to have poor endings, as if Wyndham had said what he wanted, got bored and just stopped. The exception was The Day of the Triffids which had a satisfactory ending. So how would I respond to re-reading Trouble with Lichen?

First I found it a good deal more sophisticated than memory had led me to believe: The book is a feminist tract, following the career
...more
Simon
Jan 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
When I first saw the title of this book, I thought it would be about how lichen would somehow become a danger to mankind, pose a threat that might wipe us all out. But it's not like that at all. Rather lichen offers mankind the solution to one of it's oldest problems, but the two people who discover it fear the social ramifications of it getting out.

I'm not even going to talk about the nature of the benefits this lichen offers to mankind because it's not revealed until about 25% of the way
...more
David (דוד)
This John Wyndham book, did not really contain anything that made me feel awesome (or even great or wonderful, for that matter), and as a result after loving his books like The Day of the Triffids, The Chrysalids and The Midwich Cuckoos, having read through the years, this one was very much near to boring, and even skippable I should say, much like how Chocky was just prior to this about four years ago. In fact Chocky was slightly better than this!

However, still, the idea of not ageing, being
...more
Jessica
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was AMAZING! I love John Wyndham, but my problem with him was that his books always came across as sexist and racist. Though this book is still massively problematic in Wyndham's understanding of feminism, it's at least an understanding and frankly it's a pretty good one! He seems to have a good understanding of the binary between the public and domestic spheres and how that works in gender, and frankly, it was just well-written and exciting!

My new dream is to find a lichen that starts a
...more
Ellie Reynard
May 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is unusual and intriguing. Much more essay-esque than the rest of Wyndham's stuff, and perhaps that's contributed to it's comparable lack of popularity. On the other hand, this is an unusually feminist concept and execution from a white male in the 50s. Especially one who, as far as my limited research has found, wasn't particularly know for his feminist leanings.

Could this have effected the book's readership? Possibly. And for feminism it's a highly questionable form of it. Though the
...more
Fantasy Literature
Feb 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Published in 1960, John Wyndham’s Trouble with Lichen tells the story of Diana Brackley, a revolutionary, a feminist, and a scientist.

Diana is considered odd because although she is attractive, she does not want to marry. Instead, she is dedicated to her career in the lab, and it is there that she makes her amazing discovery: a type of lichen that slows the aging process. Diana decides to use the lichen to empower women, and she sets up a beauty clinic that caters to rich and influential women
...more
Cheryl
Dec 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely not 'gay' (as in cheerful) satire. Not even all that satirical, really. Social commentary, yes. An awkward exploration of how 'women' and 'men' and 'the rich' and 'the working class' and 'the religious' will diversely react to the news of a longevity treatment. Needed more individual people, not types. Interesting and entertaining enough, but if you've read or watched any SF, or philosophy, or have even dreamed yourself, you have your own ideas, and Wyndham's are, well, odd. If you've ...more
Wahyu Novian
What if someone find the true anti-aging formula which enabling people to live to around 200 years? What’re the implications? And what if the resource of it is so rare not all people can get it? How much trust should we place in those we appoint to be its guardians?
Once again, Wyndham wrote such a compelling story on how society would deal with a life changing discovery.

‘If you’re suggesting that women are anxious to live longer, but men don’t much care, I’m going to disagree thoroughly,’
...more
Havva
Mar 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
Read this 13 years ago, only fiished it due to lack of alternative reading material. Disliked it enough that it stuck in my memory, although details are fuzzy. Didn't realize it was the same author as 'Day of the Triffids'.
Philip
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
‘Who wants to live forever?’ Freddie Mercury once asked, well it turns out John Wyndham asked the same question years earlier, and the answer isn’t what you expect.

Of course the knee-jerk position is to say Yes, of course I want to live for 200 years (as the rare form of lichen discovered in this book would allow you to do), but Wyndham takes the opposite view. When I gathered what the gist of this book was going to be, I assumed the rest of the narrative would be concerned with various
...more
Yasmin
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous!
Such an entertaining read.

Explores what would very likely happen in the event of someone actually discovering the means of extending life expectancy.

All the chaos, disparate groups being for or against it, and all written in an engaging, highly astute and intelligent way.

This is the second Wyndham book I've read- having had my socks knocked off by Triffids , I gave this one a whirl.
Very glad I did! Highly recommended
shar zar
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
7/10
I've been meaning to read a Wyndham novel. I found this and I was glad to finally be able to read one. Then I read the reviews and got the idea it wasn't the best one to start with but I read it anyways and I ended up really enjoying it ;D
Sophy H
3.5 stars

This was a surprisingly feminist book considering it was written by a man in 1960!

A female biochemist, strong peripheral female characters, a man equalled in intelligence and drive by a woman! All the yeses Mr Wyndham.

The idea for the story is simple yet effective, the writing is strong, witty and engaging.

The ending (don't worry no spoilers), though a bit of a surprise feels like a cop out however; a rapid race to finish the book which is a little disappointing.

Never mind, still a
...more
Ape
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kerry
I first read this many years ago, probably when I was a teenager, and I loved it. I've been wanting to reread it for a while, but I did wonder how it would stand up, especially as it is a book written in the 1960's, by a man, about a revolution (for lack of a better world) led by women - and rich, white women at that.

I was both relieved and rather surprised to find that on the whole, it did. The moral, sociological and ethical issues the book considers and discusses are not irrelevant now and
...more
Elizabeth Elwood
May 20, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a quick read, breezily satirical and crisply written, with a charming heroine and an interesting hypothesis: What would happen if a lichen could be found and processed to create a potion that could slow the rate of human’s growth and extend people’s lives. Like all Whyndam’s novels, the interesting prediction of the future is eerily accurate in the foretelling of the problems that will come with progress. Written in 1960, the book is relevant today in its discussion of the implications ...more
Hilary
Oct 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
3.5 stars

Rereading some old favorites. This is one that I come back to less often than others (The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes) but still find new points to enjoy nonetheless. It's different from most of his others, being more concerned with potential/actual societal change and the philosophical musings around what would happen if we could live 200 years.

There's a preponderance of strong female characters - not entirely unusual for Wyndham, but they almost entirely dominate, making a
...more
Alison Lang
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the best known of Wyndham's books - the Triffids offer stiff competition - and one I'd overlooked. It's of its time, a time before genetic engineering was dreamt of, and yet curiously relevant to our own age of obsession with self-image and eternal youth. It explores the questions that will always attend new technologies - who benefits, are they being misused, should they be reserved for the elite? - and has a good dig at the hysteria of the popular presses along the way. The heroine is ...more
Robyn Blaber
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well this was refreshing to read in that it's the first science fiction book I've read in a while where there were no deaths... well, maybe one. Science and fiction can come together without the Grim Reaper taking everything in its wake.

Normally I'd give a novella like this 3 stars at best, because there's no time to really flesh out a story. This one gets a 4th star because it's so damned progressive for its time. Our hero is a woman, a bio-chemist, and truly 'wears the pants' in all of her
...more
Lysergius
Jan 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Francis Saxover and Diana Brackley, two scientists investigating a rare lichen, discover it has a remarkable property: it retards the aging process. Francis, realising the implications for the world of an ever-youthful, wealthy elite, wants to keep it secret, but Diana sees an opportunity to overturn the male status quo by using the lichen to inspire a feminist revolution. As each scientist wrestles with the implications and practicalities of exploiting the discovery, the world comes ever closer ...more
Manny
Jan 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
It's the 50s, and she tells people she's going to be a scientist. She meets with a variety of negative reactions, including "Huh?", "Why would a pretty girl like you want to do that?" and "You'll grow out of it when you meet the right man."

But the one that really annoys her, and which they keep saying behind her back, is "What does it matter, as long as she's happy?" She grits her teeth and decides she'll damn well show them. And she does.
Lou Robinson
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book club choice for February from Sue, and it's taking us back a few years, published in 1960. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, a certain feminist edge to it, and sci-fi but not space sci-fi, short and set in the UK, ticked plenty of boxes. My one and only criticism, a pretty abrupt ending, and I want to know what happens next!
Alison
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’ve always loved this book, since I first read it at fourteen or fifteen years old. It deals with the discovery of a lichen that slows down the ageing process. With a feminist subtext, and well-drawn appealing central characters, this is an interesting thought experiment on how longer life spans would change the human condition.
Amanda
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is nice to explore the ethics/morals of scientific discovery, both the discovery process itself and the potential impact such a discovery would have on society and the environment. The book is paced quite well, and I finished it in one sitting. :)
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John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris was the son of a barrister. After trying a number of careers, including farming, law, commercial art and advertising, he started writing short stories in 1925. After serving in the civil Service and the Army during the war, he went back to writing. Adopting the name John Wyndham, he started writing a form of science fiction that he called 'logical fantasy'. ...more
“I'm not romancing. I'm talking about the inevitable time when, unless we do something to stop it, men will be hunting men through the ruins, for food. We're letting it drift towards that, with an evil irresponsibility, because with our ordinary short lives we shan't be here to see it. Does our generation care about the misery it is bequeathing? Not it. "That's their worry," we say. "Damn our children's children; we're all right.” 2 likes
“My great-aunt, and other people's great-aunts, won all the rights that women need ages ago. All that's been lacking since then is the social courage to use them. My great-aunt and the rest thought that by technically defeating male privilege they'd scored a great victory. What they didn't realize is that the greatest enemies of women aren't men at all, they are women: silly women, lazy women, and smug women.” 0 likes
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