Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, December 5, 2014


Pile:  Petals from St. Klaed's Computer by Brian W. Aldiss, illustrations by Mike Wilks (1979)

Here's a curiosity.  An oversized, heavily intricate, beautiful saga.  An allegory/fantasy/fable told as a long, sweeping poem.  Another what-will-he-do-next book from the ever-inventive Brian W. Aldiss.  A tale of a fantastic city and its gigantic clockwork computer and the city's (and the computer's) dark, mirror-image counterpart. And...well, my words don't do it justice.

The city is Pile, the creation of British artist Mike Wilks.  Pile the book was the brain child of Wilks.  The city is an immense architectural hodge-podge of towering buildings squeezed together over a vast landscape.  Wilks' black and white details the city and the warring armies of the many princes of Pile lovingly.  To this phantasmagoria, Aldiss added his epic and witty poem.  Here's a sample:

     Dreamers whose gaudy plans miscarried,
     Schemers whose tawdry plans were harried,
     Men who remained for life unmarried,
     Moralists meek (with some rather scary one), police officers, fiddlers, philosophers sly,
     Octogenarians, grey vegetarians, astronomers with a cast in one eye,
     Antiquarians, bald ones and hairy ones, scientists, prelate, and medics of not,
     Mathematicians and monks with positions, physicians and fellows and learners by rote,
     Alchemists who turned their coat,
     Masons mounting stone a mile high,
     All these helped to build the Pile high,
     Helped it bloat,
     Helped take Heaven by the throat.

Scart, one of the city's princes, journey through the city to the computer of St. Klaed with its many gears meshing to solve the Cosmic Code.  Scart, however, is not interested in metaphysics; he has more pressing problems with the many princes vying for power.  He asks that his enemies by destroyed by whatever means necessary.  The computer agrees to do it as the city begins to crumble under its own weight.  Scart is taken captive by emissaries from the city of Elip, the mirror-image Pile, and is paraded past loathsome creatures to their mirror-image computer Dealk.  Scarp then finds himself expelled from this unEdenlike Eden to a world of color and potential.

A simple enough story, elegantly told in thirty pages.  Well worth a couple of hours of your in time to revel in the words and the artwork.


  1. Wow! I'm an Aldiss fan but I've never heard of this book. Sounds fabulous! I'll have to track down a copy. Nice review!

    1. As far as I can tell, George, there was only one US edition (from holt, Rinehart, and Winston in 1979) and one British edition (from Cape in the same year. Worldcat lists over 183 copies so it should be fairly easy to get from an interlibrary loan.

  2. Oh my! As it did for George, this comes completely from nowhere to me. (Does that even make any sense??). Never had the faintest inkling. Will have to take a look, absolutely. I wonder if Library Interloan would turn up a copy?

  3. I see there's one in the next county over...

  4. Sounds a bit like the kind of thing William Kotzwinkle and Joe Servello would do from time to time...