|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Sunday, January 03, 2010
Mat Coward sent me a review copy of this book, so I owe him a review. I don't owe him a good review, of course, but a good review is what he's going to get because I genuinely enjoyed the book.
It's very hard to think of a novel set in a future socialist Britain that isn't a dystopia or a utopia - Airstrip One or Nowhere. The Commonwealth of Britain in Acts of Destruction isn't described anywhere as socialist - in fact the word and its cognates don't occur anywhere in the text - but socialist it is. Socialism, if it's called anything, is called democracy. The revolution is called the Process and the constitution is called the Agreement of the People. After you've read a bit, you may find yourself thinking, 'Oh come on, it can't be as cosy and consensual as all that'. Reading on, you find it isn't: the state is definitely in the 'firm but fair' category, even if its laws are enforced by bobbies on bicycles.
Even Tories and libertarians might enjoy Coward's frequent baiting of current life-style politics: smoking is encouraged, particularly in local pubs, and healthy eating means good greasy spoon fare. There are even rifles in the hands of the people, though I would have strong objections to the limits placed on this - as does, to be fair, at least one of the sympathetic voices in the book.
Like in all the best crime novels, we start with the discovery of a body, go on to apparently unrelated matters - stolen tomatoes, a missing child, some problem about bees - and find they're all tied together by the end. Along the way we've had our viewpoint characters' relationships get interestingly more complicated. I hope Mat is working on a sequel, because I'd like to meet them again.
You can buy the book here (and sample it here).