Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Genre Character of the Week: Helward Mann

Last year I got pretty excited when first viewing the trailer for the Science Fiction film Snowpiercer.  The premise of that film, which focuses on a post-apocalyptic human society limited to existence on a moving train seem such a strange and unique idea I didn't think there had been anything quite like it before.

Then I read the 1974 Christopher Priest novel Inverted World.  In the novel, narrated (sometimes) by our Genre Character of the week, Helward Mann, the city "Earth" exists on rails and moves slowly across a landscape, and has been for years.  To be fair to the film, the city moves at a very slow pace, and there doesn't appear to have quite the same class divisions as described in the film, but there are enough similarities, I was comforted to know that classic SF had again touched on this idea decades ago.

What I really like about the character of Helward in the book is his position of being both the character the reader is meant to relate to, while at the same time basically being a guide to the strange world in which he exists.  His story begins with an incredibly evocative sentence:

I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles,

which is just an amazing way to show the reader just how different the world of this book is from ours.

Although there are a lot of places in which I disagreed with the actions Heward took, I still appreciated the way the story moves him about to best show the world in which he lives, and in the end, (sorry for the lack of spoiler here), I simply love what the author does with the character.

If you've never read it before, it is definitely worth a look.

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