…SF addict …

Friday, May 29, 2009

A new Aldiss novel

As well as dipping into Aldiss's first short story collection, 'Space Time and Nathaniel', I am also reading HARM, which I borrowed from the library.
A rather unusual book, at first it doesnt sound like science fiction at all yet I've seen it compared to Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451' or Dick's 'A Scanner Darkly' on various review sites.
Basically its about Paul,a muslim SF writer who is arrested by the Hostile Activities Research Ministry(HARM) because he wrote a book in which two characters joke about the assissination of the Prime Minister.
He is thrown into a prison in Syria I think(Paul is not sure where he is) and after a rough and often violent interrogation his mind begins to wander and he imagines another world, a planet called Stygia populated by an insect like race,colonised by a cult like group with a ruthless and charismatic leader. As Paul's imprisonment continues his mind spends more time on Stygia than the here and now and the lines begin to blur....
This one is definitely not one for the kids-there are many violent scenes and strong language-the imprisoners are reminiscent of the Gestapo!
Strangely the cover has the author's name shown in his usual incarnation,Brian Aldiss but inside, on the fly page and at the top of each page, the middle initial W is added, something that Brian dropped from his name years ago.
Having finished I can say that this was not an easy read for me. Apart from the often violent depictions in the prison(tho to be honest the scenes as depicted were fairly mild compared to many films I've seen) there's the fact that book exists on two seperate threads and it was rather like reading two books at once. There were parts of it that were well written, as I'd expect from Aldiss, but on the whole it didn't work for me.

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