Book Review: HARM by Brian Aldiss

Brian Aldiss is known for being a Socialist who injects political statements into his writing. And by a “Socialist” I mean the true definition, not the quasi-paranoid accusation that gets banded around (and barely resembles actual Socialism) by the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party. In the last ten years there has been no greater rallying call for Socialism than the mistreatment of Muslims in the west following 9/11 and on the back of it, the “Freedom for Palestine” movement.

This is the story of a science fiction writer in the near future who falls foul of an extremist regime built on Islamophobia. The writer himself is a secular Muslim who writes a satire in which a couple of drunks make off the cuff remarks about throwing a bomb into Downing Street. For this, he is arrested, incarcerated and tortured. Various evidences of his extremist point of view are thrown at him and the authorities try to break him. Continue reading

Book Review: Shades of Grey 1: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde

I wanted to like this, I really did. I am a big fan of Jasper Fforde and his clever method of mixing mundane storylines with a hefty dose of the bizarre. It is this formula that has given him success in the ‘Thursday Next’ and ‘Nursery Crime’ series. So when I found this novel with its interesting blurb I felt I had to get it.

Here is a world from which all colour has been removed, everything is coloured by artificial means by devices that look like fire hydrants. Furthermore, it seems that people cannot see colour very well and the rigid ‘outraged middle England’ social heirarchy is organised on the perception of it.

Eddie Russett is a ‘Red’ who dreams of greater status… until the day he falls in love with a ‘Grey’ (the lowest class) and persues her only to begin to discover that all is not well in his rigid but seemingly transparent world. I ploughed to the end, admittedly I struggled with this, which is a big difference with the other Fforde books that I flew through.

This is quite a messy book that is difficult to get into and at times lacks any sort of direction. The bizarreness of the world, instead of being amusing, makes it a slog at times and the plot that is seemingly heavily influenced by Gilliam’s Brazil left, for me, very little to enjoy. Perhaps this was just a step too far in the weird department when coupled with characters I couldn’t care a bout and a plot that was just too familiar.