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The Interpreter

3.01  ·  Rating Details ·  84 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
The time is the distant future.
The place is Earth - a minor planet in a universe enslaved by an alien race.
A charge of corruption in their tyrannical regime leads to a threat of human rebellion. For Gary Towler, chief interpreter to the aliens, the situation is desperate. After eons of servitude, he has one chance to free earth.
Paperback, 126 pages
Published June 1972 by New English Library (first published 1960)
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Darren Goossens
This review appeared at

The Interpreter by Brian W. Aldiss, NEL, 1973, 126 pages.

Brian Aldiss is one of the most significant figures in post-war science fiction. In particular his breadth makes him SF's true 'man of letters'. As an author he stands at the highest level, a Grand Master of the genre who has written traditional SF (in his early work like the book I'
Aug 05, 2012 Alan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've read a few Brian Aldiss books before, and I've always thought I liked his stuff. This was some decades ago. I realise now that I don't like all his writing.

The Interpreter is a short novel, about 125 pages long. It's a self-conscious 'galactic empire' SF story, examining the difficulties of governing a far-flung empire, the corruption and inefficiencies imposed by distance. In a sense it's a bit like Earth empires in the age of sail trying to control their colonies. The technological SF is
May 29, 2013 Fred rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An early effort from Aldiss, this book is a fun read, pursuing the classic sci fi theme of colonialism. Much of Aldiss' work is in this vein, probably informed by his years in the UK military.
In this one, a human is the interpreter between the mighty Nul conquerors and the subject humans. The Nul have engaged in a Roman style empire overreach; the humans are engaged in an underground rebellion. The biggest problem I have is the ending seems muddy. One human has the idea to wait out the Nul and
May 18, 2009 Simon rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
Earth is a mere colony in a vast and sprawling galactic empire of an alien race. So vast and sprawling that takes years to traverse and control of individual planets devolves to governers, many of whom are corrupt and exploit the indiginous populations for all they are worth. The governer of earth is just such a creature but he is forced to pretend otherwise when an anti-corruption charge is investigated by a commisioner from their home planet. Can Gary Towler, the human interpreter for the alie ...more

Interesting book which describes a world in which humankind has become an inferior client species to a powerful alien race. Aldiss was very interested in Africa, and you get a distinct feeling that he is really talking about how Africans view Westerners. There is a memorable scene in which the (human) hero gets trapped in a high-tech alien porno theatre, and is forced to experience the performance in full 3-D with smell and touch. Nice way of making that point...
Jun 21, 2009 Alex rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was lousy until I came to the afterword, where Aldiss talks about seeing India while it was under occupation. Then I hated the smarmy sonuvabitch for being so sympathetic to the earthmen under "nul" "rule" while setting the entire novel in England and committing the classic sin of forgetting that the rest of the world existed. Bastard.
Peter Dunn
May 23, 2010 Peter Dunn rated it liked it
I bought this for its wonderful cover - not the one used by its Goodreads entry sadly, and its authour is sort of in my B team of favorite science fiction writers.
It was an agreeable romp and its plot did indeed feel like a much better, more thoughtful, richer, version of Hubbard's awful Battlefield Earth (and its publication precedes Battlefield Earth by 22 years...)
Apr 08, 2009 Colin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm embarrassed to say that this book sat on my shelf for about nine years before I got around to reading it. It reminded me a lot of the Tripod Trilogy but with more thought put into it and less Young Adult.
Dec 21, 2016 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took a little bit for me to get into. It wasn't till I was about a quarter through that I felt i had a grasp of what was happening and a clear idea of who all the characters were. Once there, I thought it was much smoother sailing and quite enjoyed the story.
Neil Davies
Not one of his best. Well written, as always, but the story and main protagonist just didn't have that special "grab" that makes you look forward to getting back to the book. Average, particularly when measured against some of Brian Aldiss's other work.
Aldiss examines the corruption of Empire via science fiction. A bit too brief for its thesis, sadly, with a slightly forced upbeat ending with an assortment of plot points neatly dealt with off-page. Mind you, the alien nul are interesting.
May 13, 2012 Peter rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Old style SF - still OK read
Jonathan Oliver
Not quite up there with Hot House or Report on Probablity A, but a decent enough SF political thriller
Jake Mosely
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Apr 06, 2017 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A minor work from a major author. He puts his experiences serving with the British army in colonial India to good use in this book about an earth which is a tiny outpost of a vast galactic empire. The mighty nuls see themselves as bringing civilisation to backwards primitives while ruthlessly exploiting the natural resources of their planets. The backwards primitives see it rather differently. An allegory some modern apologists for the British Empire should perhaps read.
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Pseudonyms: Jael Cracken, Peter Pica, John Runciman, C.C. Shackleton, Arch Mendicant, & "Doc" Peristyle.

Brian Wilson Aldiss is one of the most important voices in science fiction writing today. He wrote his first novel while working as a bookseller in Oxford. Shortly afterwards he wrote his first work of science fiction and soon gained international recognition. Adored for his innovative liter
More about Brian W. Aldiss...

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