A powerhouse of a near-future dystopia, unrelenting in its grim intensity. This amazing novel by Christopher Priest is a glimpse into the future of an England caught up in an armed three-way conflict, between the Nationalist government of neo-Fascist Prime Minister John Tregarth, a liberal Seccessionist element and organised bands of refugee Africans, having fled a nuclear holocaust from the African continent. This breakdown is seen through the eyes of the book's protagonist Alan Whitman through his and that of his family's struggle to survive the anarchic hell of what once was England.
The book itself is written in a disjointed, fractured style of writing (with constant use of flashbacks), that to the casual reader can leave one feeling confused and disoriented, however, closer inpection of the book's structure reveal this to be to the book's benefit as it leaves the book short of fat and strong on substance and structure. Parts of the storyline as seen through the eyes of Whitman impart a dreamy, hallucinatory feeling to the reader who can never be sure of what will happen next. One may not be satisfied with the length of this short book (128 pages) but personally, I found the short length to be satisfying.
This book is gritty, unstylised and yet not so much a product of its time. Despite its themes reflecting the NEW WAVE exploration of entropy and dissolution, the book's storyline immediately brought back to me, the strong feelings that arose from the M.V Tampa crisis in Australia of 2001, prior to 9/11. I remembered the feelings of fear, hostility and paranoia from the Australian public towards the stranded refugees and the possible reaction of the public towards these boat people had they been allowed to land in Australia. The book is as relevant now as it was back upon release in 1972.
I believe this to be perhaps the most accurate and disturbing example of classic dystopia and political sci-fi ever written.