6 June 2014

#Book Review: The Traveller and Pandemonium (2014) by Harry J. Bentham @HJBentham

TheTraveller and Pandemonium (2014) is Harry J. Bentham’s science fiction opus in 2014 and the longest work written by Bentham. It is a full-length novel at 24 chapters, and includes many additional features that you won’t find in other books. After the Maquis Books review, we at ClubOfINFO feel a duty to compete by penning our own enthusiasm for this exquisite book.

By following the journey of Jreeco – a traveler who begins as a teenager in the initial chapters of the story – this is an adventure that soon turns into a story of war, tragedy and comradeship… on an alien planet. The genre is hard to describe, as the novel takes on the difficult challenge of creating a genuinely original plot when so many other books in the stores these days are forced to simply rehash exhausted themes and ideas. If an original story and a real change of pace are what you are looking for, this is the novel for you.

The balance of romance, adventure, violence and philosophy in this book is mastered by Bentham like an expert, which we can assume be the reward of years of drafting and development (the original draft was written as far back as 2011, according to Bentham). Political themes in the book are relevant and clearly influenced by the world events of the time at which Bentham wrote the book. In the political and war themes of the story, there is a clash of extremist philosophies, coupled with a desperate and unavailing war to oust an ancient authoritarian regime. Remember, this is told in a unique way and it is impossible to get bored, because it is all set against the backdrop of an apparently botched human colonization of an alien world. In Karakhana, the world of the story, humans are clinging for their very survival against the odds and have bifurcated into two great kingdoms with quite different ideas about humanity’s future. In this way, the story gets to explore the worst abysses of human fanaticism, desperation and hardline behavior in the most fitting possible setting – effectively imagining what kind of internecine fighting might be experienced by future humans if they took divergent paths with regard to their own evolution.

Calligraphy from the fictional nation of Krozan
Detail of the characters and opposing cultures involved in this story of intrigue and horror goes way beyond the best expectations that any reader might have. Bentham has even included beautiful calligraphy that brings each country to life, allowing the reader to imagine truly exploring this harsh world and the reflections of alternative humanity found in all its cultural embellishments. After reading your way through this adventure, you may just think you have really been to Karakhana – or visited a genuine record of the costs to humanity in settling an alien planet.

With its compelling tale of human individuals and cultures isolated in an alien world and struggling with matters of ethics and survival, the intrigue and darkness shown in The Traveller and Pandemonium is quite beyond imagination, beyond challenge. It is quite likely that nothing similar to this has ever been attempted in literature before, and no other recent work of fiction could be encouraged stronger for its profound themes and ideas.

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