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Book Review

Book Cover

Four-Sided Triangle


Author: William F. Temple
Publisher: British Library
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 0 7123 5231 4
Publication Date: 12 July 2018

Two brilliant scientists invent the first machine which can perfectly copy anything. It is not just a copy but a perfect replication down to the last atom. The possibilities are endless and dangerous. Rather than produce endless wealth the two solve a love triangle by replicating the woman they are both in love with…

Four Sided Triangle (2018. Originally published in 1949) is a science fiction novel by William F. Temple. The book was filmed by Hammer Films in 1953, directed by Terence Fisher (The Devil Rides Out. 1968) and starred, Barbara Payton, James Hayter and Stephen Murray.

It is a novel with an intriguing premise, one that strikes to the heart of the ideas of identity and individuality. The replicant holds everything, memories, emotions and attitudes of the original, right up to the time they were copied. Thematically the book resides somewhere between Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? with all the existential problems of a life artificially brought into this world.

The cover of the book is misleading. Whilst this is science fiction, as it explores the social and personal impact of a change in science, it has nothing to do with alien vistas or spaceships. That is not to say it isn’t a nice piece of retro science fiction art from Harold W. McCauley, the original of which adorned November 1939’s Amazing Stories, it’s that it may lead the reader to think the book is other than it is. One nice addition to this edition is the inclusion of the original front cover of the edition of Amazing Stories in which Four Sided Triangle first appeared.

The book contains an introduction by Mike Ashley, and while it does the usual job of extolling the novel's virtues it also contains the fascinating tit bit that Temple had to write the novel three times as the first two were lost in the war while only half completed.

The story quickly dispenses with the science part as this is more of a character study between the four main characters. The book is narrated by ‘Doc’ Harvey, who along with Rob Heath, Bill Leggett and Lena make up the main quartet. The original Lena is a very contemporary character who may have been seen to be very progressive in the 1940’s. She is an unfulfilled artist, mostly because she has little talent, but she remains very forward thinking and the central object of desire in the book.

This work examines the existential angst of being the other, the same person, but as soon as you are created, someone else. The book has a final twist, one which brings into doubt human agency, the ultimate questions of who am I? Has my life meaning?


Charles Packer

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