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Harm [Kindle Edition]

Brian W. Aldiss
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Product Description


The subtlety of the storytelling is astonishing... This is
exquisite suff. -- DeathRay, September 2007

Product Description

It is the very near future. Paul Ali, a young science fiction writer, who has the perceived misfortune of a Muslim heritage, has been arrested for no compelling reason. He is held as prisoner B, without a lawyer and isolated. Whenever the powers-that-be fancy a diversion, they beat him up. A foul-mouthed jobsworth subjects him to coarse and unremitting questioning. To escape from this humiliation prisoner B writes – in the privacy of his mind – a science fiction novel set on a planet in every sense a thousand light years away. But gradually the two worlds start to converge ... In the tradition of dystopias like 1984, this novel shocks and entertains.

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 398 KB
  • Print Length: 232 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009PJRS7A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #483,781 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Aldiss's father ran a department store that his grandfather had established, and the family lived above it. At the age of 6, Brian was sent to board at West Buckland School in Devon, which he attended until his late teens. In 1943, he joined the Royal Signals regiment, and saw action in Burma; his encounters with tropical rainforests at that time may have been at least a partial inspiration for Hothouse, as his Army experience inspired the Horatio Stubbs second and third books.

After World War II, he worked as a bookseller in Oxford. Besides short science fiction for various magazines, he wrote a number of short pieces for a booksellers trade journal about life in a fictitious bookshop, and this attracted the attention of Charles Monteith, an editor at the British publishers Faber and Faber. As a result of this, Aldiss's first book was The Brightfount Diaries (1955), a novel in diary form about the life of a sales assistant in a bookshop.
In 1955, The Observer newspaper ran a competition for a short story set in the year 2500, which Aldiss won with a story entitled "Not For An Age". The Brightfount Diaries had been a minor success, and Faber asked Aldiss if he had any more writing that they could look at with a view to publishing. Aldiss confessed to being a science fiction author, to the delight of the publishers, who had a number of science fiction fans in high places, and so his first science fiction book, a collection of short stories entitled Space, Time and Nathaniel was published. By this time, his earnings from writing equalled the wages he got in the bookshop, so he made the decision to become a full-time writer.
He was voted the Most Promising New Author at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1958, and elected President of the British Science Fiction Association in 1960. He was the literary editor of the Oxford Mail newspaper during the 1960s. Around 1964 he and his long-time collaborator Harry Harrison started the first ever journal of science fiction criticism, Science Fiction Horizons, which during its brief span of two issues published articles and reviews by such authors as James Blish, and featured a discussion among Aldiss, C. S. Lewis, and Kingsley Amis in the first issues, and an interview with William S. Burroughs in the second.

Besides his own writings, he has had great success as an anthologist. For Faber he edited Introducing SF, a collection of stories typifying various themes of science fiction, and Best Fantasy Stories. In 1961 he edited an anthology of reprinted short science fiction for the British paperback publisher Penguin Books under the title Penguin Science Fiction. This was remarkably successful, going into numerous reprints, and was followed up by two further anthologies, More Penguin Science Fiction (1963), and Yet More Penguin Science Fiction (1964). The later anthologies enjoyed the same success as the first, and all three were eventually published together as The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus (1973), which also went into a number of reprints. In the 1970s, he produced several large collections of classic grand-scale science fiction, under the titles Space Opera (1974), Space Odysseys (1975), Galactic Empires (1976), Evil Earths (1976), and Perilous Planets (1978) which were quite successful. Around this time, he edited a large-format volume Science Fiction Art (1975), with selections of artwork from the magazines and pulps.
In response to the results from the planetary probes of the 1960s and 1970s, which showed that Venus was completely unlike the hot, tropical jungle usually depicted in science fiction, he and Harry Harrison edited an anthology Farewell, Fantastic Venus!, reprinting stories based on the pre-probe ideas of Venus. He also edited, with Harrison, a series of anthologies The Year's Best Science Fiction (1968-1976?)

Brian Aldiss also invented a form of extremely short story called the Minisaga. The Daily Telegraph hosted a competition for the best Minisaga for several years and Aldiss was the judge.[2] He has edited several anthologies of the best Minisagas.

He traveled to Yugoslavia, where he met Yugoslav fans in Ljubljana, Slovenia; he published a travel book about Yugoslavia; he published an alternative-history fantasy story about Serbian kings in the Middle Ages; and he wrote a novel called The Malacia Tapestry, about an alternative Dalmatia.

He has achieved the honor of "Permanent Special Guest" at ICFA, the conference for the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, which he attends annually.

He was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to literature in HM Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Honours list, announced on 11 June 2005.

In January 2007 he appeared on Desert Island Discs. His choice of record to 'save' was Old Rivers sung by Walter Brennan, his choice of book was John Halpern's biography of John Osborne, and his luxury a banjo. The full selection of eight favourite records is on the BBC website .

On 1 July 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Liverpool in recognition of his contribution to literature.

In addition to a highly successful career as a writer, Aldiss is also an accomplished artist whose abstract compositions or 'isolées' are influenced by the work of Giorgio de Chirico and Wassily Kandinsky. His first solo exhibition The Other Hemisphere was held in Oxford, UK, in August-September 2010, and the exhibition's centrepiece 'Metropolis' has since been released as a limited edition fine art print.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A zeitgeist novel 9 Mar 2008
Aldiss has always managed to write books which are very contemporary. HARM takes post-9/11 anti-terrorism measures as its opening theme. We join Prisoner B, a British writer whose Muslim heritage and a satirical episode in a book he has written have landed him in very hot water.

In a Guantanamo-like environment he is tortured beyond endurance, and seems to alternate between modern day reality and that of an alter-ego who is a colonist on a distant planet. His character there is suffering from institutionalised religious intolerance, too, and it soon becomes clear exactly how the characters are linked.

Aldiss manages to pack a lot into a short novel. There are some extraordinary pieces of SF invention - the 'dogovers' and their final secret is inspired, as is the method by which humanity reached such a distant outpost. Then there is social and cultural comment, rendered quite boldly but without preaching. And it is impressive that so much character is created in so few words; as the colony passes through three distinct leaderships, each leader is fully-realised in economical prose and dialogue.

I feel it it important to state that this is not a book which provides an uplifting experience to the reader, but it is one which tells a compelling and memorable story.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A firey, intelligent and formidable novel 29 Jun 2009
Paul Ali, a young British writer with Muslim parents but who calls himself a secularist, has written and published a comic novel in the tradition of P.G. Wodehouse. The book attracted some minor attention and made him a very small amount of money. One passage, in which the protagonists joke about what would happen if the Prime Minister was assassinated, has attracted the attention of the Hostile Activities Research Ministry. After learning that Ali visited Saudi Arabia on holiday recently, HARM arrests Ali as a suspected terrorist and sets about finding the truth from any means necessary.

As Ali is interrogated, he escapes from the degradation and torture by constructing a fantasy world, Stygia, where in the distant future humans have sent a colonisation ship from Earth. The passengers were molecularly disassembled for transit, but their reconstitution did not go as planned and now the people are confused, or brain-damaged, or have problems with language. In this world Ali is Fremant, a bodyguard for the colony's deranged leader, Astaroth. As Astaroth prosecutes a genocidal war against the native inhabitants, the Dogovers, Fremant's loyalties are torn. There is upheaval in Stygia, war and revolution are coming, and what happens in the real world and in Ali's mind starts to reflect more and more on one another.

Brian Aldiss may be in his 80s now, but HARM (published in 2007) shows that his formidable powers as a writer have not diminished with age. In this novel Aldiss is clearly angry over what Britain and her allies did and became in the 'war on terror', but pulls himself back from a kneejerk polemical attack on the policies of the Bush-Blair axis.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A parable on the surveillance society 17 April 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The novel interweaves two realities (or is it only one?) in an intriguing way that builds towards a climax that neatly encapsulates the paranoia of terrorism that is increasingly becoming a feature of our modern society . The ending will make you smile in a rather cynical way - not at any shortcomings with the story though. Rather at the way it so aptly captures the way in which politicians in recent years have played the 'fear' card, as it were, to justify increased surveillance and other strategies that erode traditional freedoms. It may not be a classic but its a good read.
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