Bookshelf spotlight: The Dark Light Years

A quick, and fairly brief, addition to bookshelf spotlight’s Science Fiction Saturday. This is a book I actually just found today when I was out running errands, and “killing time” in the used bookshop before meeting a friend for lunch.

The Dark Light Years by Brian Aldiss is everything that I love about science fiction and fantasy – and something that unfortunately is somewhat lacking in the offerings of newer authors. This is, the commentary that can go deep, and is usually well woven into the story so that it makes you think without taking you out of the story as the heavy handedness hits you over the head with the message being conveyed (I’m looking at you Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, Birnam Wood, …).

The Dark Light Years by Brian Aldiss

I haven’t read this yet, though it has catapulted to the top tier of my TBR and will probably be read in May. Why? Because of this mini review found inside the front cover of the copy I bought:

Consider the problem of meeting and communicating with an alien race. Mankind is brought up to hold certain beliefs, to act in a certain way, to reach certain conclusions based on previous experience. Yet meeting an alien is something without any known parallel, without any basis for comparison. How do you establish terms of reference? How do you reconcile human mores with alien ways? How do you reach a basis for mutual empathy?

These are the questions Brian Aldiss answers in The Dark Light Years. The aliens were called ‘utods’ – they were gentle, civilised, close to nature, superbly equipped to talk. Yet mankind insisted in judging their habits by the habits of Earth. And that made the utods pretty despicable, ignorant, dirty creatures. Before long, a human took a gun to them and in no time a war breaks out.

Why? Because there was no real communication.

Tom Boardman, Jr.

I can’t wait to see how well this concept is explored. I have heard good things about this author, though have yet to read any of his books, so I expect it has probably been done very well.

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