Charles Spark is an expert on body language, a bestselling author and a consultant (or walking lie detector) much in demand with industry and government. So when the aliens arrive, who better to join the team that will attempt to understand them
But even though these insectoid aliens - the "Flies" - in their pyramid-ship speak both English and Russian, they seem unreadable. "We have come to your planet to remember it," they say and at first they seem indeed to be a bizarre group of intergalactic tourists.
When human beings start to interfere, things begin disappearing. The Dome of St Peter's in Rome is the first to go, followed by downtown Prague, old Mombasa, M nich, the heart of New Orleans.
In an effort to understand what has happened, Spark, and a strange group of pilgrims, embark on a bizarre journey to Mars - where the city of M nich has reappeared in a canyon. And where time, and memory, have become manifest.
Ian Watson (1943 - )Ian Watson was born in England in 1943 and graduated from Balliol College, Oxford, with a first class Honours degree in English Literature. He lectured in English in Tanzania (1965-1967) and Tokyo (1967-1970) before beginning to publish SF with "Roof Garden Under Saturn" for the influential New Worlds magazine in 1969. He became a full-time writer in 1976, following the success of his debut novel The Embedding. His work has been frequently shortlisted for the Hugo and Nebula Awards and he has won the BSFA Award twice. From 1990 to 1991 he worked full-time with Stanley Kubrick on story development for the movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence, directed after Kubrick's death by Steven Spielberg; for which he is acknowledged in the credits for Screen Story. Ian Watson lives in Spain.