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HARM Review in Strange Horizons

Via del.icio.us sf: Strange Horizons reviews Brian Aldiss’s timely novel HARM.

HARM, however, is unambiguously (and for a publisher, intimidatingly) about the present War on Terror, and Paul’s torturers, at the titular Hostile Activities Research Ministry, are unambiguously American and British officials. Consequently it makes the reader identify with a figure mainstream opinion has these last several years regarded as expendable—the faceless “disappeared” swept by the thousands into secret prisons on flimsy pretexts and often no pretext at all in the name of “national security.”

[…] Paul started to imagine himself another man in another place—Fremant, a guard of Astaroth, the dictator of the human colony on the planet Stygia, a thousand light-years from Earth.

Aldiss follows both threads all the way through the novel. In the hands of a lesser writer the book’s dual structure could easily work against its dramatic effect, but instead of being distracting, the events on Stygia effectively complement the primary storyline, intertwining with and reinforcing it.