This is the first of Lawrence Miles' projected series of Faction Paradox novels, which is an off-shoot of a concept that he originally introduced in his Doctor Who novels. As Miles was always an experimental author, ready to take risks with narrative and format, it is only to be expected that this book does not read like your average pulpy science fiction tale. Instead we get an omniscient, cynical narrator telling us the tales of several individuals and the effects that our modern society has on them, using the science fiction tropes to tie their stories together, rather than as the focus for the plot. It is a very dense novel and is demanding of your attention while you read it, but you also have a sense that you are reading something that the author is going out of his way to make relevant. And that is perhaps the major failing. There is a definite sense of cockiness or even smugness to the narration of the tale, an acceptance that this is a worthy novel and that it is imparting major truths to the reader about the nature of reality, and sometimes this can be a barrier to one's enjoyment of the book. However, it is definitely a book to persevere with as it will make you think, and after all isn't that what a good book is all about?
The first stand alone Faction Paradox novel works well as an introduction to the series, with the concepts of a temporal 'War in Heaven' being introduced through the eyes of 3 'normal' people in a contemporary setting, who happen to be affected by the War, and an object that seems to be buried under their town... Cleverly the existence or non-exitence of Faction Paradox et al can be determined by the objective reader, with America's current 'War on Terror' making for some frighteningly fitting resonance's with Miles temporal war. The actual plot of This Town is quite basic, with the story taking place over 6 hours, but the ideas behind the basic plot on ritual, media and war are heady stuff. The only downside is that sometimes Miles style slips into preaching mode, with the book often reading more like an etended interview than a novel, and Miles is so determined to buck the accepted norms of adventure storytelling that the book is wilfully contrary, complete with a decidedly anti-climactic ending. Not the most satisfying thing Miles has ever written, but still a challenging and thought-provoking piece of science fiction, and a great start to the Faction Paradox novel series.