Thursday, April 18, 2013

Book Review: HARM by Brian W. Aldiss

Harm by Brian W. Aldiss

225 pages Del Rey

Brian W. Aldiss is best known for two films based on his work Frankenstein Unbound directed by Roger Corman based on his novel, and AI directed by Spielberg based on his short story called Super toys Last all Summer Long. In genre terms he is considered one of the masters of British science fiction. His series Helliconia Spring, summer and winter are considered broad classics of imaginative large scope Sci-fi. Personally I have only read Frankenstein and Dracula Unbound both of which I enjoyed.

HARM is an interesting novel released in 2007, and it is a political statement on the war on terrorism. The publisher compared it to Brave New World and 1984, but this novel is not a dystopia so I don’t see that comparison outside of the strong political message mixed with Science Fiction. It the story of Paul Fadhil Ali a young second generation British citizen who is arrested and put through a series of tortures after a novel he has written is discovered to be joking about an assassination attempt on the PM. Detained by a shadow organization called HARM he believes he is been moved to various other countries as the torture takes place.

The strangest part of the novel is a secondary story, a far future tale of human colonization of a far off world named Stygia. This story appears to be in the mind of Paul, but the walls between sanity and the two worlds melt as the novel goes on.

HARM is strange and imaginative novel that explores many important issues. If there is a weakness is that the characters lack depth, and lack of background on the shadow group that the novel is named after. I think mystery is good, but I wanted to understand more of what was behind HARM. The novel is short and considering how much more effort is put into the wild ideas rather than character development it is the right length. This is a an OK novel, with agreat concept that I feel could have been explored at greater depth.

The sci-fi elements that take place on Stygia are very cool, the back story of a insect world and the human journey to get there is very interesting. That said the story of Paul and his torture was more interesting to me personally, even if less pages of the book are devoted to it. I don’t think this novel is good enough to be considered essential but it is very interesting for Aldiss fans.

If you are new to Aldiss I wouldn’t start here. If you are interested in how speculative fiction handles the issues of modern life than yeah it is worth a read.

The hardcover includes a cool interview with the author.

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