This review is available here by kind courtesy of the author. Previously unpublished. Copyright Brian Stableford, 1977 - 1999.THE GARMENTS OF CAEAN by Barrington J. Bayley. Doubleday, 1976, 189pp. $5.95. ISBN 0-385-04397-x
Barry Bayley is a writer who can present bizarre and unusual manner in a forthright fashion which seems remarkably fresh in these times, when so many once-bizarre and once-unusual ideas have become mere staples of the science fictional imagination. This novel is concerned with the curious "Cult of Attire" flourishing in the Caeanic worlds, in which the old adage about clothes making the man is taken to its logical conclusion. In Caean it is not merely the quality of man, but human nature itself, that is determined by the cut of his clothes.
The plot investigates on the one hand the mission of the Ziodean cruiser Callan, on a spy mission to find the key to the Caeanic enigma, and on the other hand the exploits of the sartorial expert Peder Forbarth, who falls in with crooks dishonestly handling a shipment of Caeanic clothes. The Callan discovers the origins of the cult in an everlasting war between two races of cyborgs, but subsequently finds that something else, more sinister, is active in keeping the cult alive. Meanwhile, Peder, equipped with one of five extra-special suits made from the exotic material Prossim, follows his own path to the same destination - a path, needless to say, commanded and controlled by the suit.
This is a light-hearted book, full of ideas and set againts a gaudy backcloth. It is cleanly written and a joy to read. Bayley is one of the most inventive writers working in the field, and it is a great pity that he is not better known and better appreciated in his own country.
- Brian Stableford, circa 1977