Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A firey, intelligent and formidable novel, 29 Jun 2009
This review is from: Harm (Paperback)
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 him...by 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. Instead he analyses the situation through the lens of SF, making the point that the brutal and oppressive measures that had been adopted were the result of fear and ignorance, an urgent need to distill complex issues down to a hopelessly naive black-and-white, us-and-them situation. At the same time, he also points out the reality of the threats that do exist and threaten us, and in the end offers no neat or pat answers because they simply do not exist.

All of this may make HARM sound like a tiresome political treatise rather than as a novel, but nothing could be further from the truth. Aldiss' engagement with the issues does not detract from the story, which is a dizzying multi-stranded narrative occupying two different levels of reality and how the state of Ali's mind in the 'real' world impacts on that of Fremant on Stygia. Aldiss' formidable powers of SF worldbuilding are again on display here, with the hostile insects and fauna of Stygia recalling the grotesque genius of Hothouse, whilst descriptions of the journey through space from Earth echo elements in Non-Stop. But HARM is its own, dizzyingly intelligent book.

The novel concludes with both an author's note and a fascinating interview between the author and his publisher in which analyses his motives in writing the book and where it sits compared to some of his other novels.

HARM (****) is firey, smart and compelling (I read the book in one sitting), urgent in tone and convincing in argument. It is available now in the UK and USA.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 


Review Details

Item

4.0 out of 5 stars (6 customer reviews)
5 star:
 (2)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
7.99 6.10
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Reviewer

A. Whitehead "Werthead"
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: Colchester, Essex United Kingdom

Top Reviewer Ranking: 214