The Other

Matthew Buscemi

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Other is an on-the-nose futuristic sci-fi cum political thriller. Set in the last remaining human enclave of what appears to be our planet, the novel explores the differences between and possible outcomes of liberalism and populism.

It’s the dying days of the presidential campaign in the Reclamation, the group of cities that huddle behind the wall erected against the nanite-bodied. To venture outside the wall would be suicidal – the world outside the wall belongs to the nanite-bodied, the descendants of the nanite-enhanced humans who wiped out the basic human species everywhere across the planet except here – yet the incumbent liberal Reconciliation party are looking to re-establish contact if they win. The populist Guardian party is running on a manifesto of protection, vowing to build more walls and even reclaim territory from those outside the Reclamation.

Dr Sahaan Ekeer is the Senior Consul to the current President, and he’s out on the election trail for his party’s new candidate. Polls are showing Reconciliation as having a lead, but everything is thrown into chaos when, during a question and answer session in one of the outlying spoke cities, a panel of the all-important wall suddenly and impossibly mutates into what appears to be a young human boy. Can Sahaan convince the Reclamation to give ‘Charles’ a chance, or will fear and hatred of something that is ‘other’ lead the remnants of humanity to reject all hope of reconciling with those outside their walls?

Science fiction has long been an accepted vehicle for the discussion of political ideas; it’s a safe medium in which to advance new ideas or broach difficult subjects. Whether it’s religion in Isaac Asimov’s Reason (part of I, Robot), social oppression in Christina Dalcher’s Vox, technophobia in Michael Crichton’s Prey, or dangers of invasive species in something as seemingly benign as the Star Trek TOS episode, The Trouble with Tribbles, there’s virtually no subject too big to be covered by sci-fi. The trick for the writer is to get the reader/viewer to think about the underlying subject without them realising that that’s what they’re doing.

My concern with The Other is that it’s just too obvious, and that if you have no real interest in politics then the novel is too purely a politic discourse to be of interest. There little in the way of disguising the politics as anything other than politics, and while I find it interesting myself, it seems like a fairly niche market to be appealing to. It’s not difficult to see parallels with the political turmoil happening in the USA all around the world at the moment, so I hope this would at least persuade people to give it a chance.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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