Science fiction novels are much more fun when a technology they present has a believable aspect to it, and it’s even better still if the application in question is new, hasn’t been thought of before, or is something that already exists in theoretical or prototypical form.

I guess one of these is true of most SF scenarios, but when they come together as they do in something like Bob Shaw’s Other Days, Other Eyes, the effect can be stunning.

The science fiction of Other Days, Other Eyes (1966) concerns a technology generally labelled as slow light, which basically concerns experiments in slowing down the speed of light. It’s something that Dave Eggers touched on in You Shall Know Our Velocity (2002), although Bob Shaw remains to my knowledge the only novelist to have explored the possibility to its fullest, and made some dramatic scenarios out of it.

In Other Days, Other Eyes, the substance in question is called Slow Glass, a fictional material which delays the passage of light by years or even decades, and is used to construct windows, called scenedows, that allow people to watch scenes that are recorded in the glass. As the light takes so long to pass through the Slow Glass, a pane can be set up somewhere picturesque, and then moved to somewhere like a prison, or a city apartment, or a submarine, and looking through the glass, the viewer will see whatever the glass ‘recorded’.

The process, which is likened to photons passing "...through a spiral tunnel coiled outside the radius of capture of each atom in the glass" allows endless possibilities in this novel, which consequently kept me riveted up until its frightening end; and pertinent to our day and age, the glass also has security applications, especially when the particles of glass are produced to be so small that they can barely be seen.

Bob Shaw (1931 – 1996) was about the best loved British SF writer out there, largely because of the fact that he never stopped being a fan himself. He was very popular at conferences, at which he gave many talks over the years, and his own fanzines were legendary, passionate and emotional in a way that other fans readily responded to.

Other Days, Other Eyes is a good short read, and like all good SF contains a high degree of paranoia, particularly in this instance about the state use of new technology, always a popular theme. In it journalists carry Retardite panels, not iPads, and there is a constant sense of desperation as the thoroughly plausible invention the book describes falls quickly away from its inventor, who has less and less power over it, begging that age old truism: once something has appeared, it simply can’t be un-invented.

‘People are their eyes,’ states Other Days, Other Eyes, a thought that repeats throughout; and as the world rushes headlong into the new technology, which has been turned to aid among other things, surveillance and political assassination, not unlike our concerns about the Internet, Bob Shaw’s story turns out to reveal the greatest invasion of privacy the world has ever seen.