20 July 2008

Planet of the Damned - Harry Harrison

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I know many of you out there do not read science fiction - which is a tragedy I have to say. Sci-fi, if you will forgive its nerdish tendencies, is actually a quite intellectual form of art. Since the author can explore time and space, sci-fi is often a satirical or social commentary on man's current plight - whatever that may be.

However I digress. This work by Harrison, a Hugo finalist in 1962, is not exactly the pick of the science fiction litter. It is one of the few sci-fi works on the Librivox recordings, and I thought it would be fun to listen to on my ride down to New York for the Yankees game. Nerd, yes -guilty as charged.

The plot is fairly simple, as far as sci-fi goes. Brion Brandd has just won his planets highest honour - the Twenties, which is a physical and mental double decathlon of sorts. Because of his empathetic sense - which is strangely familiar to the Bene Gesserit training that Paul Atreides recieves in Dune - Brion is recruited by the Cultural Relationship Foundation. He travels to Dis, a barbaric planet whose inhabitants are at war with their culturally advanced neighbors, the Nijordians. Brion mission is to help stop the war.

As there are dozens of other science fiction novels to chose from, I would not recommend this one. Its characters are much too unidimensional, and the plot is overly predictable. Nonetheless, it did keep me entertained through the heat laden, construction filled drive!

"But you can change the future!" Ihjel said. "You owe something to the suffering ancestors who got you where you are today. If Scientific Humanism means anything more than just words to you, you must possess a sense of responsibility.

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