Girish Mahajan (Editor)

The Canopy of Time

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Cover artist  John Griffiths
Media type  Print (Hardback)
Author  Brian Aldiss
Genre  Science Fiction
Country  United Kingdom
Language  English
Pages  222 (Hardback edition)
Page count  222 (Hardback edition)
Published  1959 (Faber and Faber)
OCLC  1933121
Similar  Brian Aldiss books, Science Fiction books

The Canopy of Time is a science fiction novel by English writer Brian W. Aldiss, first published in 1959 by Faber and Faber. The story is a fix-up of previously published short stories, centering on the forty-million year history of the fictional city of New Union. The book was published in the United States as Galaxies Like Grains of Sand.


Short stories

  • "Three’s a Cloud" - first appeared in New Worlds Science Fiction #79 (Januaty 1959), as "The Unbeaten Track"
  • "All the World’s Tears" - Nebula Science Fiction #21 (May 1957)
  • "Who Can Replace a Man?" - Infinite Science Fiction (June 1958)
  • "Blighted Profile" - Science Fantasy v10, #29 (Jun 1958)
  • "Judas Danced" - Star Science Fiction (USA, January 1958) and Science Fantasy v9, #27 (UK, Feb 1958)
  • "O, Ishrail!" - New Worlds Science Fiction #58 (April 1957)
  • "Incentive" - New Worlds Science Fiction #78 (Dec 1958)
  • "Gene-Hive" - Nebula Science Fiction #30 (May 1958), as Journey to the Interior
  • "Secret of a Mighty City" - The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (May 1958), as "Have Your Hatreds Ready"
  • "They Shall Inherit" - Nebula Science Fiction #32 (July 1958)
  • "Visiting Amoeba" - Authentic Science Fiction #82 (July 1957)
  • Plot

    Aldiss describes historical time as “a treacherous mirror, reflecting only our limited truths.” The mirror reflecting the forty-million year history of the City of New Union has been shattered and the book presents only a handful of its shards. A brief introduction ties each story to the previous one:

  • Three’s a Cloud - Mildly drunk, Clemperer wanders into a restaurant in the seaside town into which he has washed up. The restaurant is nearly empty, but Clemperer sits down with the two other occupants and starts a conversation. He feels an odd gestalt with them, one that persists as a storm rages over Union Bay. Believing his new friends drowned, he goes to the restaurant and finds them, soaking wet, waiting for him.
  • All the World’s Tears - On the last day of summer at the end of the 83rd Century (AD 8300 Dec 18), in a war-exhausted world in which people avoid direct contact, J. Smithlao goes to Charles Gunpat’s estate to give the old man a hate brace in preparation for a meeting. As his sneering comments about Gunpat’s mutant daughter goad the man into a screaming rage, Smithlao witnesses an incident that will offer excellent material for the next time he is called to give Charles Gunpat a hate brace.
  • Who Can Replace a Man? - One day the robots working on a vast farm receive no orders from the city. They are informed that the humans are extinct. Guided by the most intelligent of them, the robots begin planning to create a glorious robot civilization, free of human domination. Then they encounter a lone human.
  • Blighted Profile - Chun Hwa rides his horse along the rim of one of the last burnt-over remnants of ancient radiation wars. His grandchildren’s generation is planning a great city on Union Bay and he wants to go to the future to gather evidence that it is a mistake. A wild boy tells Chun Hwa that he has found a time machine such as the old man desires and Chun Hwa follows his heart. This is a direct sequel to Out of Reach in Galaxies Like Grains of Sand.
  • Judas Danced - In the city of Union, Alexander Abel Ybo has been sentenced to death for the second time for murdering Parowen Scryban for the second time. In a world where people view history through timescreens and express their feelings about it through interpretive dance, he is an outcast. Even though he looks like Jesus Christ, his club foot prevents him from dancing the Passion, so he murders his twin, who does.
  • O, Ishrail! - Aboard the mental-health ship Cyberqueen, anchored in the harbor of New Union, Davi Dael pleads the case of a man called Ishrail. The man was found naked on a farm and claims to be an exile from a galaxy-wide civilization. No one on Earth has heard of such a civilization, though records, likely myths, indicate that some ships attempted to cross interstellar space millennia before. Ishrail is declared insane and Davi recognizes the exquisite cruelty of the people who exiled him.
  • Incentive - A bit over a decade after Ishrail’s exile began, the Galactics have come to Earth and established an embassy in New Union. Farro Westerby has gone to that embassy to confront Jandanagger Laterobinson and try to discern the real reason that Earth is being admitted into the Galactic Federation. Jandanagger acquaints Farro with the Galactics’ immaterialist understanding of Reality and notes that Earth is being drawn into the Federation as an act of psychotherapy, an exorcising of monsters from the Id.§
  • Gene-Hive - A nuclear accident triggers a change in one man’s body, making one of his cells sentient. The rogue cell renders other cells sentient and transforms the man into a shapeshifter, the next stage in the evolution of life. The man begins to absorb other people and when unaffected humans approach him with atomic weapons, he merges with a mass migration of butterflies and vanishes.
  • Secret of a Mighty City - In a projection room of Supernova Studios Harsch Benlin pitches to Smile P. Wreyermeyer an idea for a 3-D movie about the City of Nunion itself. It is an exploration of the city’s decadence with its undertone of squalor, a search for the heart and soul of the greatest city in the Galaxy. Of course, the final product looks nothing like what Harsch Benlin pitched. It doesn’t even mention the destitute artist who conceived it.
  • They Shall Inherit - Representing Transfederation Health, Citizen Djjckett Male has come to the Experimental Applied Mutation Hospital to confer with Moderator Tedden Male regarding experiments aimed at advancing human development. Djjckett, whose own people make and use creatures that are part robot and part animal, claims that artificial mutation of humans is monstrous. The mutants seem to agree.
  • Visiting Amoeba - An itinerant peddler strays beyond the Galaxy and must land on a nearby planet to replenish his ship’s oxygen supply. Although the instruments say that the world is safe, the air kills him just as a manlike creature emerges from a lake. After absorbing all knowledge from the peddler’s ship and library, the creature flies the ship back into the Galaxy, raises an invasion fleet, and heads for Earth. In the fabulous city of Nion, the creature tells the Supreme Suzerain that matter has grown tired: exhausted, it is beginning to collapse back into the nothingness whence it came, making room for a new creation.
  • As The Canopy of Time

  • 1959, UK, Faber and Faber, Hardback (222 pp)
  • 1961, UK, The Science Fiction Book Club (#51), Pub date May 1961, Hardback (222 pp)
  • 1963, UK, Four Square Books (#821), Paperback (191 pp)
  • 1964, UK, Four Square Books (#1078), Paperback (191 pp)
  • 1964, UK, Faber and Faber, Hardback (222 pp)
  • 1966, UK, Faber and Faber, Hardback (222 pp)
  • 1971, UK, New English Library, ISBN 0-450-00708-1, Pub date May 1971 (also Jul 1972), Paperback (191 pp)
  • 1974, Netherlands, Luitingh (Luitingh SF Verhalen #2), ISBN 90-245-0173-3, Paperback (171 pp), as Amoebe op Bezoek (Amoeba on a Visit)
  • 1975, UK, New English Library, ISBN 0-450-02254-4, Pub date May 1975, Paperback (191 pp)
  • As Galaxies Like Grains of Sand

  • 1960, USA, Signet (#S1815), Pub date Jul 1960, Paperback (144 pp)
  • 1966, Italy, Casa Editrice La Tribuna (#62), Pub date Feb 1966, Paperback (224 pp), as Galassie come granelli di sabbia (Galaxies Like Grains of Sand)
  • 1967, Germany, Moewig Verlag (Terra Taschenbuch #120), Pub date Mar 1967, Paperback (156 pp), as Das Ende aller Tage (The End of All Days)
  • 1971, USA & Canada, Signet/New American Library of Canada (#T4781), Pub date Sep 1971, Paperback (144 pp)
  • 1977, USA, Gregg Press, ISBN 0-8398-2376-2, Pub date Jun 1977, Hardback (xiii+144 pp)
  • 1979, UK, Panther/Granada, ISBN 0-586-04985-1, Paperback (188 pp)
  • 1980, Germany, Pabel Verlag (Utopia Classics #15), Pub date Mar 1980, Paperback (160 pp), as Das Ende aller Tage (The End of All Days)
  • 1981, UK, Granada, ISBN 0-586-04985-1, Paperback (188 pp)
  • 1985, USA & Canada, Signet/New American Library of Canada, ISBN 0-451-13416-8, Pub date Feb 1985, Paperback (189 pp)
  • 1985, UK, Panther/Granada, ISBN 0-586-04985-1, Paperback (188 pp)
  • 1989, UK, Viktor Gollancz SF/Gollancz (VGSF Classics #36), ISBN 0-575-04180-3, Pub date Sep 1989, Paperback (188 pp)
  • 1991, Portugal, Editorial Caminho (Lisboa), Camino Ficção Cientifica #125, ISBN 972-21-0554-X, Paperback (212 pp), as Galáxias Como Grãos de Areia (Galaxies Like Grains of Sand)
  • 1996, Italy, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore (Classici Urania #231), Pub date Jun 1996, Paperback (222 pp), as Galassie come granelli di sabbia (Galaxies Like Grains of Sand)
  • Listings

    The book is listed at

  • The Library of Congress as 75012076 (1975, Faber & Faber)
  • The British Library as UIN = BLL 01000044881 (1963, New English Library)
  • Worldcat as OCLC = 1933121
  • References

    The Canopy of Time Wikipedia

    Similar Topics
    Escape from Hong Kong Island
    Zuzanna Mazurek
    Matthew Schissler