INTERFERENCE by Terry Grimwood (BOOK REVIEW)
‘Order must prevail, he mused. Humans cannot cope with chaos.’
Available now from Elsewhen Press
Suffolk born and proud of it, Terry Grimwood is the author of a handful of novels and novellas, including Deadside Revolution, the science fiction-flavoured political thriller Bloody War and Joe which was inspired by true events. His short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies and have been gathered into three collections, The Exaggerated Man, There Is A Way To Live Forever and Affairs of a Cardio-Vascular Nature. Terry has also written and Directed three plays as well as co-written engineering textbooks for Pearson Educational Press. He plays the harmonica and with a little persuasion (not much persuasion, actually) will growl a song into a microphone. By day he teaches electrical installation at a further education college. He is married to Debra, the love of his life.
Terry Grimwood’s latest novella ‘Interference,’ explores the possibilities of sentient life beyond the confines of our own planet. Grimwood writes about interplanetary affairs and just how far humans will go to achieve their own selfish desires. The narrative is designed to make us consider what we would do if we were presented with a simple choice, Immorality in exchange for the gift of immortality to humanity; or morality to retain order, peace, and traditional humanity. Grimwood presents a world full of ambiguity and uncertainty, but the realms of politics and diplomacy remain predictably and painfully ‘grubby’ and problematic. As we follow the characters on their diplomatic conference to an alien world, things are not always as they appear. The aliens, their world, their city and their war scar the narrative with their presence from the first page, but only in time do we learn the truth about what is really going on.
‘It was unlike any city Tor had seen before. The Buildings, presumably they were buildings, were thousands of feet high and all identical. Each one resembled the rounded, slightly flattened, shape of a titanic pebble […] The whole thing reminded him, unnervingly, of a giants’ graveyard.’
Torstein Danielson (Tor), Secretary for Interplanetary Affairs, has been sent to visit the Iaen on their home world. He has been selected to make a difficult choice: go against the Alliance and help the Iaen in their War, or to not interfere with the Iaen’s War and remain in the Alliance. Tor is part of the first group of humans who have been invited to Ia, and he will be the first person to step foot on this new alien world. The Iaen have asked for the assistance of humanity against their enemy, the Tal, and although Iaen technology is far more advanced than humanity’s tech, they insist that the ‘crude’ warfare and combat strategies of Earth are the only way to win their war.
“Why do they need our help? They are practically gods compared to us.”
Humanity view the Iaen as God-like, and appear to trust them explicitly and unconditionally, everyone except Tor that is.
“Iaens are incapable of dishonesty. They are the most god-like race we have encountered so far.”
“Gods lie.” […] “Read your mythology. Gods are scheming and petty.”
Although Tor is on a delicate political mission to decide whether or not humanity will ‘interfere’ with the war between the Iaen and the Tal, he is going through some heart-breaking and distracting personal difficulties. His wife, who hates him, constantly tries to call him home as their daughter nears death. An ex-lover Journalist who Tor once had an affair with, haunts the trip with her presence, giving him conflicting feelings of temptation, lust and bitter, painful regret. Whilst Tor is being made uncomfortable by his personal life, the burden of making such a huge decision about the war and the constant temptation to kiss his ex-lover, the Iaen and their world are unnerving and distressing. The buildings of the city seem almost organic. They are described as being almost alive, with colour and light and movement, causing health issues to all the humans which ends up having a hugely negative impact on their professionalism and diplomatic meetings. Alongside this, the description of the Ia are uncannily humanoid but unsettling:
‘Tor had met Iaens before. Like this one, they looked oddly unfinished, as if they were something hastily fashioned to make themselves acceptable, and perhaps a little intimidating, to humans, although they had never offered any threat.’
Unfinished, but shiny and smooth, with large blue veins just under the skin.
Overall, this novella leans heavily on the uncertainties and ambiguities surrounding the Iaen, the Tal, and the planet itself. Why are they at War? Where is the War? And should Humanity interfere or not?
The novella explores the depths of a desperate man looking for a miracle. Temptation lurks in every corner for Tor; from sex to life, we watch Tor writhe in mental agony as he tries to resist what he thinks to be ‘wrong.’ As the story unfolds, from crumbled confusion into something solid and concrete, more is discovered about the Iaen and their planet, helping Tor to make the ‘correct’ choice. Unfortunately, this is a very short novella (84 pages to be precise) and I felt this was a remarkably missed opportunity. Whilst it would be inaccurate to suggest that there is lots of unanswered questions (because their really isn’t), the reality that Grimwood has built and constructed on the page is beautiful and brilliant, I simply wanted more to nourish my cravings for creative topography and unfamiliar worlds. Whilst this narrative is over, I hope to read more from Grimwood, and would very much like to read what might happen next in Tor’s reality…
‘Buildings burned, smoke billowed. Other than that, there was silence.’
Review copy sent by @elsewhenpress