A novel approach to political thinking

Henry Benedict Tam is well-known in the WEA because of his extensive experience in supporting the development of inclusive communities. He has led previous government initiatives on delivering wider democratic empowerment, promoting civil renewal and improving community-based regeneration. He has also been a thought-provoking speaker at various WEA events and has challenged us constructively from time to time. A former civil servant in the Home Office and Department of Communities and Local Government, he is currently the Director of Cambridge University’s Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy.

Henry Tam

Professor Tam has drawn on his expertise as a policy advisor, programme director and political theorist to write extensively on politics and society, but, in a rather surprising new project, he has now written his first novel, Kuan’s Wonderland. He describes the book as a fable to intrigue and prompt debate. “Some may find it subversive”, he told me, “but aren’t novels meant to be?”

Many reviewers have responded favourably to this highly imaginative fantasy novel.  It tells the story of a young boy captured and taken to a nightmare world where appearances invariably deceive.  I was particularly fascinated by its multi-layered storylines which unfold at pace through its visually captivating characters and plot twists.

It works well as science fiction taken at face value but is very much deeper than the surface tale about a child’s adventures in a mysterious and bewildering world. The book offers an unusual starting point for rethinking a wide range of issues including the nature of society, wrongful imprisonment and the distribution of resources. The fantasy world setting means that readers can discuss thorny social issues without using real-world labels and preconceptions.

Professor Tam hopes that groups of readers will find Kuan’s Wonderland a useful as well as entertaining novel to stimulate discussions of subjects such as power, justice, personal endurance and moral authenticity.

Kuan’s experiences do raise a lot of questions and show that there are no easy answers to life’s problems. There are many possible options and choices to be weighed. Henry Tam’s novel is going to help challenge assumptions and encourage readers to exchange thoughts on the continuing conundrum of what is to be done.

You can find more information about the book (and how to download the e-edition) at: