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The Dark-Light Years of Mankind

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The Dark Light-Years by Brian Aldiss
The Dark Light-Years
Brian Aldiss

When I picked up The Dark Light-Years to read it a second time I could not help but think of a word I first heard of in a Survey of British Lit. course in college, and that is scatological.  To save you the time if you don’t know what that word means, the copy of Webster’s I have gives one definition as, “the study of or preoccupation with excrement or obscenity.”  It’s nasty but you can relax, that’s not the focus of the story.  I only thought of the word because the alien species man encounters in the book views excrement as a sign of fertility, and their view leads to much of their problems with mankind.

The story really focuses on a discussion of what constitutes intelligence and civilization.  There are several debates between human characters in the book regarding the level of development of the aliens.  Many of the humans have a problem considering the utods, as they are called in the story, anything more than an alien form of swine.  The utods wallow in their filth, and their language is a complex system of sounds some of which are too high for humans to hear.

The Dark Light-Years is a story that shines a light on the criticism of many sci-fi tales and shows that portray all intelligent life as humanoid and endowed with languages easily translated by machines.  In this novel the sentient beings encountered, and soon after abused, by man are in fact a race older than man, but have taken a different path in advancement so they are viewed as primitive.

I liked the fact that man has developed a way to travel quickly between stars without having unified into one terrestrial government.  The nations of the world are still independent and the one overriding agreement amongst them is that all battles between nations will be fought on a distant world rather than on Earth.  I thought this novel by Brian Aldiss was a good way of showing the complexities of first contact and how difficult they can be instead of the nice, touchy-feely, everything falls into place situation in other novels and shows.

If you enjoyed this book you may also like:

Consider Phlebas by Ian M. Banks Hothouse by Brian Aldiss Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
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