The Plato Papers by Peter Ackroyd (Vintage £6.99 in UK)

 

A science fiction satire set 2000 years in the future featuring Plato, the philosopher, may not sound like the sort of book you would care to expend precious minutes of your life upon - but it is funny. Biographer of T.S. Eliot and Blake, Ackroyd is a clever, inventive writer and even if his characters never quite sound believable and his humour veers towards the camp, no-one could deny his imagination. Plato comes across as a concerned chap intent on explaining the past to his bewildered followers who look towards him for answers - and boy does he supply them. The London of today is here remembered as Mouldwarp and The Origin of Species could only be a comic novel by one Charles Dickens. All is well until Plato actually happens upon some survivors of the ancient race, us, a sad bunch ruined by "the cult web and net". Plato falls out of favour and slinks off in despair. Meanwhile Ackroyd is shrewd enough to end this likeable little gag, which comes complete with a glossary of 20th century English, just in the nick of time.