The novel “Harm” by Brian Aldiss is a science fiction discussing the fear-drenched government systems in the fight against terrorism. Reflectively, the author introduces a thin line “beyond which the west should or should not cross in its’ war on terror” (Aldris 31).
Narrated in prose, the author is raging at policies of war on terror and illiberal response of liberal democracies. Adopting an independent approach, he resonates on the perceived acceptable limits of action in the mission to protect citizens and interests of the administrative institution (Gerke 36).
In the process of achieving this goal, the author identifies unified approach in combating terrorism through illegalized glorification of terrorism by directly challenging laws on terrorism. Brian has created several characters in this fiction novel and assigns traits that eventually enable them to survive and thrive in their quest for self-fulfillment in the unbearable conditions and challenges. Thus, this reflective treatise attempts to analyze character survival of the main actor, Paul Fadhil Abbas Ali.
The main character is Paul Fadhil Abbas Ali who is introduced as a young British writer married to a Scottish woman. This protagonist pokes holes into the political system of the British government in his comic novel. Sired by Muslim parents, the young lad has a published comic novel which has sold few copies yet draws controversy with a government organ.
In the comic novel “The Pied Piper of Hament“, Ali reflects jokingly on the possibility of the death of the Prime Minister through assassination and draws the attention of the whole powerful Hostile Activities Research Ministry (HARM) assigned the role of investigating terrorism activities and threat to national security.
Upon their investigations, HARM discovered that Ali had just returned from Saudi Arabia on a holiday trip and immediately detains him on the charges of being a suspected terrorist. Unfortunately, the investigative process is so brutal and inhuman since the law permits HARM to “establish the truth from him by any means possible” in “a system that creates monsters” (Aldris 22).
In response, Ali constructs a world of fantasies to escape from the torture and degradation into an imaginary planet. This planet is called Stygia. In the fantasy world, passengers of a gigantic ship from planet Earth make it to this planet in inactive form controlled by the molecular assembly (Aldris 67).
Unfortunately, upon reaching their destination, transformational process failed to materialize and the passengers end up developing brain damage, language inconsistency, and confusion. In Stygia, Ali is called Fremant and has the position of a bodyguard to Astaroth who is the leader of this colony.
Astraroth has initiated a genocide war against the inhabitants of this planet who double up as Fremant’s friends just as it is happening on the planet Earth where Ali has been subjected to brutal torture without a substantial reason. Consequently, Fremant is in the dilemma of allocating loyalty to the two parties (Aldris 87). He is caught between being fully loyal to his repressive boss and supporting the course of the subjects facing extinction threats.
Having been a victim of intimidation as a result of the inhuman torture by the HARM, Ali hides from the reality by switching off the conscious mind into the subconscious being as the torture transcends to unbearable level. In the other world, Ali is a member of the ruling class who colonized that planet before human being discovered its existence (Aldris 49).
Reflectively, Ali has developed a self consolation tactic to survive the unfair treatment in the contemporary society. Interestingly, Ali’s interaction with members of the imaginary planet is more or less similar to what is happening within the boundaries of HARM. Just as it is happening in the society controlled by HARM, authority in the fantasy world is also oppressive on its subjects who are due to face extinction from an arrangement of conspiracy genocide.
Also, imagination is presented as a form of survival tactic (Aldris 39). The main character uses intrinsic imagination to present an ideology without necessarily having to experience the oppressive intimidation adopted by the government organ. In doing so, he pokes holes into the oppressive system which is meant to protect citizens of this society.
In a quest to survive and thrive in the inhuman society, Ali is satirical and displays radical fragmentation personality. The two personalities representing the same character in different worlds share same “technical and astonishing strong will” (Peterson 21). Though the situation seems unbearable in the imaginary world, Fremant sets out on an adventure to establish existence of any “survivor of the genocide” (Aldris 39).
This is motivated by the inner need to set his mind free from the guilt of conspiracy to clear a race initiated by his boss. Further, the imaginary planet is unwelcoming following the population explosion of the horse-size ants. Somehow, the main character survives the unfavorable conditions due to strong will (Black 43).
Conclusively, in the prison, Ali is not sure whether he subconsciously planned the assassination of the Prime Minster or he is just a victim of an oppressive system. Despite the ignorance of people surrounding him in prison, Ali ends up “achieving dismal gains” (Aldris 67) in the dream for self fulfillment.
Aldris, Brian. Harm. Indiana: Del Rey/Ballantine Books, 2007. Print.
Black, Joseph. The Broadview anthology of British literature. London: Broadview Press, 2008. Print.
Gerke, Jeff. Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction. New York: Writer’s Digest Books, 2010. Print.
Peterson, Christopher. Character strengths and virtues: a handbook and classification. New York: American Psychological Association, 2004. Print.