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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is what the future is like...
I'd been looking forward to this book, and it was definitely worth the wait.

As with MacLeod's other recent books, "Intrusion" is set in a very credible near-future which initially bears more resemblance to a thriller than to science fiction. It is, I think, really three books in one. The opening section is the one described in the blurb. Mother to be Hope...
Published on 5 Mar 2012 by D. Harris

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A novel based on an idea!
It's not giving anything away to mention this book is about the social, political and security consequences that follow Hope Morrison's decision not to take the "Fix", a wonder drug that if taken during pregnancy "fixes" the genes of the baby in the womb with the result that the child is born immune to a range of childhood illnesses.

I was rather disappointed...
Published 23 months ago by P. McCLEAN


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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is what the future is like..., 5 Mar 2012
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Intrusion (Hardcover)
I'd been looking forward to this book, and it was definitely worth the wait.

As with MacLeod's other recent books, "Intrusion" is set in a very credible near-future which initially bears more resemblance to a thriller than to science fiction. It is, I think, really three books in one. The opening section is the one described in the blurb. Mother to be Hope faces a dilemma: whether to take "the fix", a marvel of "syn bio" (the endpoint of systematic genetic engineering) which would "cure" any potential genetic abnormalities of her future child.

The Fix isn't compulsory - not exactly - but this is a world where the needs of the foetus are placed so far ahead of those of the mother that most women of childbearing age can't work (whether pregnant or not) in case they encounter decades old "fourth hand smoke" seeping from the structure of the workplace. They are strongly encouraged to wear monitor rings, which record any contact with noxious substances, and are banned from drinking alcohol unless provably not pregnant.

Methods of persuasion are therefore employed to encourage Hope to take the Fix. She would have a get out if she claimed to be religious, but she isn't. What should she do?

MacLeod portrays a scary future, a creepy, surveiled world where - for society's good - AIs trawl one's phone logs and movement records, putting 2 and 2 together, and no adult would dare be alone with a child unless monitored by cameras.

The second theme develops from this and is summarised in a conversation between postdoc Geena and her supervisor. Geena is observing a group of Syn Bio engineers for her research into how science is done, but has run into a little trouble and asks for help. Here the dialogue which this book seems to be having with Nineteen Eighty-four becomes overt - even with some phrases of Orwell's repeated. But it is also, I think, playing with themes from another dystopia, Brave New World.

In one, control of society is achieved by brutality, surveillance, austerity and militarisation. In the other, it's done through comfort and plenty. In "Intrusion" there is a world of apparent comfort and plenty with no apparent external threats (apart from a degree of paranoia over foreign insurgents). In each case, though, the result is the same - total control - and the same question applies: in the words of both Winston Smith and of Geena: "I understand how, but I don't understand why".

In "Nineteen Eighty Four", the answer is repugnant - power for its own sake - but somehow makes sense. One can see a way out: overthrow the Party. In "Intrusion", I take MacLeod to be saying that there isn't a reason. Nobody actually seeks power. The control and coercion is something that society is doing to itself, always with the best of intentions. There is nothing to overthrow, nothing to resist, because everyone is complicit. "They got me a long time ago". That is, to me, actually much scarier and rather more plausible.

The third theme in this book is the SF plot, to which focus turns in the final third, and I won't say much about it because it would be a shame to give too much away. It has to do with the past and the future, and perhaps does offer a way out.

Overall this was is a gripping novel, with plenty happening, full of ideas and with some nail biting action. Strongly recommended.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unintrusively effective, 26 Feb 2012
This review is from: Intrusion (Hardcover)
I was delighted to see the stark white cover of Macleod's latest on the bookshop shelves - and it didn't disappoint. Many writers describe dystopias and utopias, few plot a plausible path from here to there. Macleod succeeds in depicting the sinister and insidious descent into a particularly British kind of authoritarianism. The prevailing ideology is the 'free and social market' where the state makes for you the choices you would have made if you were a rational actor with perfect information in a free market. Interrogation and torture are ritualised in a relatively painless but psychologically disturbing manner. You can 'dissent' from prevailing norms, but only if you subscribe to an approved list of beliefs permitting conscientious objection.

Within this society (and a relatively 'low tech' near future compared to some of his novels) Macleod weaves a story of a not-so ordinary family spread across suburbia and the highlands, with a semi-mystical sub-plot and subtle sting in the tail, which is well planned and foreshadowed to unite the two plots. 'Subtle' is a good word to sum up the book, which quietly implants all sorts of doubts about our direction of travel more effectively than a dozen libertarian rants. Macleod also picks up on recurring themes of barbarism, environmentalism and terrorism, which will be familiar to those who have followed him since the Fall Revolution novels.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1984 meets Nudge and the Spirit Level, 4 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Intrusion (Hardcover)
This is a lovely exploration of the dystopian consequences of the sort of directions popular in politics of the early 21st century: the precautionary principle, nudges, and generally the points at which the nanny state changes from Mary Poppins to something out of Roald Dahl.

You can hear a few axes ground - Ken Macleod is not keen on the smoking ban - but there are points which get actually alarming; certainly it's a book you can argue with but it's well worth the rating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dystopia is just a few steps away, 13 May 2013
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This review is from: Intrusion (Kindle Edition)
This is why I love speculative fiction. And this is clever - you can see how easily we could sleepwalking there. Left me wondering if I would take the fix...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very bleak..., 20 April 2013
By 
A. J. Poulter "AP" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Intrusion (Paperback)
The title of this novel refers to the 'Fix', a genetic 'cleanser' that does away with any abnormalities in unborn babies. Hope Morrison is an ordinary working Mum who has a young boy, and is pregnant again but she does not want to take the the Fix. If she had a 'faith' objection there would be no problem in her missing it, but since she does not, the state intrudes with the excuse of supporting the 'rights' of the unborn child. And then things start to escalate...

Along the way there are many genuinely funny elements to this book. The caricatures of a Labour MP who stands for nothing beyond his own self interest and a Marxist academic who writes about rebellion but who sold out years ago are delightful. But this novel has a heart of darkness, just like '1984'. There is no escape from the petty rules and regulations that smother freedom, and no hiding place from the ever present surveillance. Despite pretending to live in a free society, everyone knows about the 'grey' gulags and the police do what they want to suspects who are offered free trauma counseling afterwards.

Ironically, there is something different about Hope's child, which is suspected by her husband and his family in Skye, which is where Hope flees in a fruitless bid to escape. The most dystopian element in this book is the lack of an obvious fix for this moribund society, as the only ways forward seem to be either through an 'exit' that only exists in the perception of a few with the right genes or burning everything down and starting again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another good one Mr Macleod, 18 April 2013
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This review is from: Intrusion (Kindle Edition)
Really good, treats the reader like an adult, doesn't quite go where you expect it to. The description of every day life is so vivid - you're pulled into the world of the book from page one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A novel based on an idea!, 14 Aug 2012
By 
P. McCLEAN (Dublin) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Intrusion (Hardcover)
It's not giving anything away to mention this book is about the social, political and security consequences that follow Hope Morrison's decision not to take the "Fix", a wonder drug that if taken during pregnancy "fixes" the genes of the baby in the womb with the result that the child is born immune to a range of childhood illnesses.

I was rather disappointed with the start of this novel as it fell into the trap of any novel written with a message. The first few chapters made it feel like a book written to give a message. These chapters dealt with introducing the characters, giving some background indications of the state of technology and the global political situation, and edging the reader into the space where issues of freedom, choice and liberty could come to the fore. I won't spoil the book by giving away specifics, but I felt the roles played by the characters were a bit stereotypical and everything was focused on setting the story up for the message and nothing included for window dressing or decoration. Sub plots do not play a significant part in this book.

Once Hope meets her local Member of Parliament at a rally for the Labour Party the book does step up a gear and the action flows much faster from there on in.

Ken wrote this book while he was Writer in Residence at the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum at Edinburgh University. As is obvious from his blog and other publications, Ken loved his work with the Genomic Forum and it was only natural that he should write a book on the subject and that he should weave in his excellent understanding of social issues and politics.

The message I took from the book was that a country that is implementing policies and laws based on good intentions in relation to childcare, health, etc... could display all the hallmarks of a totalitarian state, especially if the global socio-political environment gives rise to strong security agencies. I got a hint of Ken complaining abut the "Nanny State" and venting some irritation against the smoking ban in the UK. If I were a psychologist I'm sure I could interpret this entire novel as a lash at the UK government for banning smoking in workplaces.

I was disappointed however, to see Ken regularly using singular verbs with plural subjects in his reported speech. It doesn't help the standard of English usage if a well regarded author reinforces sloppy grammar.

Ken was good at portraying the feeling of living in a state where the population is constantly under surveillance. While the level of technology was different his writing did remind me of when I lived in Northern Ireland during the 1970s with constant surveillance by the army and police. The interactions with the members of the security forces were particularly realistic.

I enjoyed Ken's descriptions of Lewis. Given that the author grew up on Lewis it is obvious where he got his material and he demonstrated an intimate knowledge of the terrain and the difficulties of traversing it on foot.

Another attractive element was seeing the similarities between Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic. All the Gaelic words Ken used are pronounced the same way in Irish Gaelic, but the spellings are quite different. Also, the legend of Tir Nan Og (in Irish, "Tír na nÓg") is obviously the same on both sides of the North Channel. If you are not familiar with the tales of Tir Nan Og you should look them up. Knowledge of these would give a better understanding of what happens at the end of the book.

The book is a good read once one gets past the initial introductions and scene setting. Despite some silly, and somewhat extraordinary decisions by the characters, the book is enjoyable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than I thought it would be, 8 April 2012
By 
Robert (Uxbridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Intrusion (Hardcover)
I am glad I bought this outright rather than just relied on the free first chapter you can get on Kindle. That would really have put me off. However other readers might have liked the setup of a future where there really is no privacy at all. Nor would I have liked the protagonist who was pregnant woman who decides she just does not want the pill which corrects or prevents a host of childhood illnesses. She is also unwilling to just pretend to have a faith in order to have her way. But Ken MacLeod wrote this book in such a way that I found I warmed to the character and was rooting for her and her husband by the end. This is why he is one of Scotland's greatest writers. To pull off a trick like that needs skill. The milieu felt similar to The Execution Channel and also had a little bit of political exposition which I did not understand at all. But overall I liked this book and am glad I bought it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gourmet meal rather than a lunchtime sandwich, 8 Mar 2012
This review is from: Intrusion (Hardcover)
I have to admit that when I first started the book I did so with some trepidation. I love Ken's books but have found myself to be a little disappointed by his later offerings, as his first few books were so good.

The first few pages had me rather worried because they seemed rather banal. But I shouldn't have worried. Just when I wondered just how many times he was going to describe the putting on and taking off of coats, he turned it all up a few notches. And it all started getting very very interesting. Not only with the "action" but also on a philosophical level. His explorations of freedom, both private and public, are excellent and thought provoking. His development of the different strands are as good as his earlier books. For me to say anymore would be to spoil the story.

Yes, there are sections that require rereading. But that just points to a well written narrative in my eyes. It is not fluff for the early morning commute. It's a book to be read on a comfy sofa, with a good drink and no distractions.

On another level, I did read the book with a big smirk on my face, because it could have been written specifically for me. Born and raised in Southall? Check. Had lived in Hayes and Uxbridge? Check? Studied at Brunel University? Check. Had done a degree in sociology? Check. So the references to places and subjects made it all the better.

Well done, Ken, for a return to form. Let's hope you are working on another, equally good, read.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unfree Range Humanity, 9 Mar 2012
By 
Diziet "I Like Toast" (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Intrusion (Hardcover)
Ken Macleod has portrayed a thoroughly believable near-future dystopia. The central protagonists, Hope and her husband Hugh, along with their first-born, Nick, attempt to navigate this world maintaining an independence that is increasingly compromised 'for their own good'.

It starts with 'the fix'. Hope is pregnant with her second child and, due to a court case involving an atheist Iranian couple, comes under increasing pressure to take a pill that will not only protect her child from many of the common childhood diseases, but will also fix any genetic abnormalities. But Hope does not want to take 'the fix' for reasons that are never really clear, even to herself. It is a matter of choice, but a choice that many, even most, see as a 'no-brainer'. If swallowing a single pill could prevent misery to her child and, by the by, save society a deal of money into the bargain, who in their right minds would say no? But Hope does say no. And she is saying no, not only to a Brave New World, but to a stagnant humanity - good or bad. Are all genetic abnormalities inevitably deleterious? Would not taking such a pill mean that someone else has decided what is 'normal', what is good for society, above the rights of the individual? Of course, some people do opt out. There is an opt out for those with religious convictions - but really they are merely tolerated. And for an atheist to opt out is considered simply bizarre and anti-social.

On top of that, it seems that there is a basic underlying agreement, an unspoken compact between civil society and state authority. This is the 'free and social market', a precarious balance that, in a passage that owes more perhaps to Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor than Orwell, seems to describe the logical end point of some form of New Labour ideology. Geena's university lecturer spells it out to her when she comes running to him after a 'routine' bout of torture courtesy of the local constabulary:

'...the most important task in politics has become preventing people from realising that they're already almost there. That train has left the station. We've already crossed the border. State-capitalism can flip over - or rather, can be flipped over, overturned - into socialism in the blink of an eye, the moment people become conscious of the possibility. The point is to prevent them becoming conscious. Both sides already have relative abundance, universal education, extensive planning, formal democracy. Imagine the horror if people got it into their heads to put all these together for the purpose of, let's say, liberty, equality, fraternity!' (P123)

The politics and the technology are completely believable. And chilling. Echoing current discussions about the world wide web, the difference between a liberating and an oppressive, controlling technology seems merely to be one of attitude or, perhaps, ideology.

As an exposition and exploration of trends already visible all around us, this is a powerful book. But as a novel it's not so great. The politics are central, with the result that the characterisation suffers. I found it really quite difficult to 'believe' in Hope and Hugh, Geena and Maya - they seemed two-dimensional and unsympathetic and I didn't really care enough about them to get particularly worked up about their fate.

So, in all, this is a great book of ideas. It is a clear-sighted vision of some of the possible (even probable) directions in which our society is developing. But that vision is too strong for the characters to be much more than cyphers. Compared to the rumbustious and thoroughly likeable Mo Cohen of The Star Fraction or even the Travis family in The Execution Channel, Hope, Hugh, Nick, Geena and all never really 'came alive' for me. For all that, this is still a chilling and prophetic novel.
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Intrusion
Intrusion by Ken MacLeod (Hardcover - 1 Mar 2012)
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