Saturday, 31 October 2009

In Harm's Way [Review: Harm]

This novel takes anti-terror freedom of speech legislation to it's extreme, and may have been written as a response to the increasingly restrictive laws here in the U.K. The protagonist has written a romantic comedy in which one character jokes to another about assassinating the Prime Minister - as a result he is rendered to an interrogation centre in an initially unidentified country where he is imprisoned and tortured. He seems to dissociate under stress or lack of stimulation and episodically enters a fantasy life where he is amongst the human colonists of an alien world. However it remains unclear for much of the book whether this is dissociation or whether the present day scenario is a flashback or memory, as the colony scenario is clearly in a future that has developed from this present. Issues and character similarities connect the two scenarios, particularly during a resonant sequence where he is imprisoned in both worlds.

I like to think Aldiss would never have bothered writing either scenario on its own. One would then have been a straightforward political satire, the other a stereotypical space opera along the lines of Dragons of Heorot. It's the interweaving of the two stories that leads to a deeper dissection of issues such as terrorism and abuse of state or other power, and as one would expect from Aldiss, the easiest route is not the one taken.

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