Monday, 11 March 2013

The Accord and Harmony Are Good Books

Or why you should read The Accord and Harmony by Keith Brooke

Keith Brooke is a Science Fiction author I never hear anything about. Which is profoundly weird because he is really, really good. He writes very high concept Sci-fi rendered in richly textured prose built around emotionally riveting human dramas. And yet... nothing. Now, I probably don't follow Sci-fi novel journalism well enough to be an expert, but it still surprises me that Keith Brooke isn't a bigger deal.  

The Accord: The Accord tells the story of an extra marital affair between Professor Noah Barakh and Electee Priscilla Burnham and the jealousy of her husband, the powerful Elector Jack Burnham. The Accord is also the story of Elector Burnham as he tries to govern a world devastated by over population, ecological abuse, and ethnic warfare. The Accord also tells the story of Professor Barakh as he tries to construct The Accord, a consesual virtual reality designed to house the digitized minds of the dead of a dying planet. The Accord also tells the story of Priscilla as a post-life human attempting to navigate The Accord and discover meaning now that she is functionally immortal. The Accord is a novel that uses Science Fiction to explore gigantic ideas from the consequences of a literal, manufactured heaven; to the effects of human immortality and reincarnation; to the risks of rendering of human minds/souls into mutable digital information. And in the best tradition of Sci-fi the novel takes these huge thought experiments, sprinkles them liberally with tiny grains of profound smaller ideas, and hangs them all on a scaffold of a beautiful and eminently relatable love story. It's one of the most thought provoking and thoughtful hard Science Fiction novels I have ever read. It's also one of the more beautifully written ones: The Accord's sumptuous prose borrows the syntax and rhythm of preachers and scripture in a way that really complements he thematic discussions. If I were going to create a list of ten Sci-fi novels everyone should have to read, The Accord would be among them. I do not understand how this novel isn't a bigger deal.

Harmony: In Harmony, Humanity is a marginalized group living among a wide variety of alien species who are relegated to ghettos on the fringes of this bizarre society. Dodge Mercer is one such downtrodden human, scrapping out his meagre living by staying one step ahead of the alien authorities, until he meets Hope Burren, a strange girl who carries in her mind the voices of countless people and, perhaps, the key to humanity's future. Together Dodge and Hope must make a pilgrimage to save their people. Harmony is another complex, well written Science Fiction novel. It has it's own unique voice, but one that carries distinct notes of Charles Dickens, Cyberpunk, and a Clockwork Orange. Thematically, Harmony is even more complex. The novel is clearly a parable of a certain nature, but what nature doesn't become immediately clear. For a big chunk of the book I was convinced that it was riffing on Jewish history: the diaspora, the Holocaust, the establishment of Isreal... and while I'm sure that reading is there it is not the main point of Harmony. No, the real moral, the real push of Harmony isn't really revealed until the last ten pages or so and when it drops... it's perfect. Harmony is just another masterful Sci-fi novel that should also be a bigger deal than it apparently is.

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