The Garments of Caean by BJ Bayley

The Garments of CaeanThe Garments of Caean by Barrington J. Bayley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those odd little gems that has stood out in my memory as a really sublime sf novel. On the outset, it’s a book about a psychic suit that bonds with, controls, and manipulates its wearer for amazing reasons which gradually unfold through the novel.

But the book is so much more than that: It freewheels through a variety of spacefaring human cultures who have evolved and adapted to their respective environments, and dissects with remarkable precision not only the role of fashion in human society, but also our concepts of body image and our sense of self, and how these these things impact our understanding of what it means to be human. (The best sort of scifi, in other words.)

Underlying all those great themes is the plot itself, which builds on those foundations to introduce its trickiest question: what we consider to be intelligence, and how our human centric perception shapes interaction with other lifeforms.

It really is a stellar read, an inspired and very original novel, combining two things i like (scifi and fashion) and putting it under a literary microscope in the context of cultural examination. Plus, I’m willing to bet you’ve never read the word “sartorial” so many times in a scifi novel before!

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