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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dystopian Noir with Humour
If Patricia Highsmith wrote dystopian fiction but had more of a sense of humor, it might be something like The Miracle Inspector. The book opens in an England of the near future that's been partitioned and in decay. London proper seems to have the worst of it, walled off and Taliban-like in its social clampdown. Women can't leave the home. The Arts are off-limits. Men...
Published on 14 Nov 2010 by Steve Anderson

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3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Special
Saw lots of adverts and recommendations for this online, but was left disappointed. Didn't empathise with the main characters, perhaps just not my kind of thing
Published 6 months ago by ML Smith


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compassionate and intelligent book, 7 Sep 2012
By 
U. M. McCormack "Una McCormack" (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Miracle Inspector (Paperback)
Angela and Lucas could be any young couple at the start of their marriage: often unsure of themselves and each other, making mistakes and missteps, yet very much in love. But Angela and Lucas live in a dystopian London, sealed off from the rest of the country, where women are forced to stay at home to protect their children from paedophiles and the soldiers can take seize the men if they decide they might be terrorists. Despite Lucas's comfortable (and curious) government job as the inspector of miracles (better that than the inspector of cats), neither wants to stay. They want freedom. They want to escape to Cornwall. When Lucas meets Maureen - and her miracle, Christina - he sees an opportunity to take his wife away.

Helen Smith crafts a subtle novel with language so seemingly straightforward that it would be easy to miss what's not being said. Lucas, besotted with his wife and his own internal concerns, misses the meaning of the miracles (and the obscenities) happening right in front of him. The tone, at the start, is comic - almost whimsical - inviting you to laugh at the odd government offices or the tendency of poets towards pomposity. There is some sly satire too of the genre of feminist dystopia within which the book sits. But Smith is in charge throughout: she never loses sight of the tragedy of this situation nor of her characters' plight, and she tightens the screw gently but inexorably, drawing it all together with great skill. This is a compassionate and very intelligent book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A peculiarly English dystopia, 19 Aug 2012
This review is from: The Miracle Inspector: A Dystopian Novel (Kindle Edition)
Something has happened to London. Cut off from the rest of the UK, with its population subjected to severe gender segregation laws and ruled by ministerial departments that focus on unusual portfolios (cats, hedgerows, relations between women), the citizens only choice is to try to endure or make a break for the outlying countryside beyond the partition. Young couple Lucas and Angela are no exception, but most unusually Lucas is himself the 'Miracle Inspector' of the title, a member of the enclave running this twisted London.

Helen Smith's novel contains light humour to leaven the dystopian miseries, with characters cut off from the shared history of their setting by the unusual catastrophe that has taken place. In that sense a comparison can be made to Jeff Noon's Falling Out Of Cars, or Vladimir Sorokin's Day of the Oprichnik

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent dystopian novel, 15 Aug 2012
This review is from: The Miracle Inspector: A Dystopian Novel (Kindle Edition)
This story is set in London in the near future; it's a London that in some ways feels very familiar, but in some ways is scarily different from the London of today. Counties have been partitioned off, and Londoners are effectively trapped in their city. To escape, they have to literally go underground, and risk their lives. Women are not allowed to work - indeed, are not even allowed outside their house unless they are covered with a veil. The fear of paedophilia is so immense that men are frightened of spending time with any child who is not their own, and even then, only with their wife present. Theatre and books are banned, and any kind of culture is considered anarchic.

Living in the middle of all this are young couple Lucas and Angela. Lucas works for the sinister Ministry, as a Miracle Inspector - his days are spent visiting people who claim to have discovered a genuine miracle, but so far every `miracle' has been a fraud, or the wishful thinking of the claimant. Lucas and Angela make plans to leave London, but it turns out to be much harder than anyone could imagine.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Dystopia is one of my favourite genres, and fans of such books as Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Handmaid's Tale, would almost certainly enjoy this novel. I found it scarily believable; a world that was all too easy to imagine, where fear of paedophilia and terrorism has curtailed people's freedom to an extreme level.

It is not spoilerish to say that at one part, Angela finds herself outside London, as a refugee, and the story drew parallels with how asylum seekers are treated in the real world, with mistrust and fear.

The writing is very `clean' - no words are wasted here - and it flows beautifully. The different subplots tie together nicely and despite the subject, there is genuine humour here as well.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed this book, and will be seeking out Helen Smith's other books. Definitely recommended, especially to fans of dystopian fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `Remember: you can't make a difference when you're dead.', 10 Aug 2012
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Miracle Inspector: A Dystopian Novel (Kindle Edition)
This novel is set in a dystopian near future: England has been partitioned and London is a walled and suspicious place. Theatres, libraries and schools have been closed and women are no longer allowed to work outside their homes. The older generation have mostly disappeared, as does anyone who speaks out about the government.
Lucas, who lives in London with his wife Angela, is the miracle inspector. It's his job to investigate and report on claimed miracles. And, in an oppressive environment with few creative outlets many miracles are claimed. Angela is lonely and unhappy. They dream of escaping to Cornwall where, they believe, people are free to live as they choose.
A woman named Maureen requests a miracle inspection in respect of her daughter Christina. Lucas investigates, and finds himself taking Angela to meet Maureen and Christina. This is forbidden: women are only allowed to visit other women to whom they are related.

`Men made the laws. Women set out to exploit the loopholes in them.'

This is an unsettling and bleak world: Angela dreams of escape, fuelled by reading letters dropped off at her home by Lucas's uncle Jesmond - an outlawed poet. Lucas sees himself as largely invisible as he operates outside the law. Plans are made to leave London, but nothing goes according to plan. The wisdom of elders is needed, but missing. The consequences of choices are not anticipated, the outcomes are never comforting.

In fewer than 250 pages, Ms Smith creates an unsettling and incomplete world. Aspects are disconcertingly recognisable, others are alien. Many parts of the world have harsh restrictions on citizens - the cause is not always clear, even if the immediate effect is. And what of the long-term? Beyond the memories of the past? I found this novel unsettling, disturbing, and worth reading.

Note: I was offered, and accepted, a copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling Summer Read!, 5 Aug 2012
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This review is from: The Miracle Inspector: A Dystopian Novel (Kindle Edition)
Something terrible has happened to London. Whatever that something is it has stripped London of all that we know it to be in real life. No longer a vibrant multicultural multiparty hub but a city whose inhabitants have finally given in to their fears creating a apocalyptic-style scenario that has turned London and those who live in it dismal, empty and soulless. This is a London where fear of terrorism has won rendering it a cut-off city with grounded planes, ensuring that the only place anyone will go to is a place much like hell once they are whisked away by the authorities 'never to be seen again'.

Helen Smith has managed to create a reality where the easy way out solution is key to everything. Paedophilia a scare? Let's shut down schools and libraries so our children are no longer exposed to strangers. Rape on the increase? Lock the women at home, strip them of their right to work and then cover them head to toe when they do venture out. The Arts inflaming hearts and instigating change? Abolish them, hunt down the artists and make sure they are made an example. Now that this is all done, Helen Smith challenges you to think; Safe or sorry?

Lucas and Angela are a married couple who live in this new London. Lucas, very much in love with his wife works at the Ministry as a miracle inspector whose job consists of checking out reports of people who say they have witnessed a miracle and validating the authenticity of those claims. Angela is a bored housewife who has hopes and dreams but spends most of her days memorising the long names of dinosaurs from the encyclopedias she salvaged from the local library before it shut down just to get through the mundane task of shaking out the mat and polishing the taps. That is until one day, Lucas's godfather Jesmond, stops by and hands Angela a journal full of poems and letters that provide for a sort of entertainment in her life. Lucas and Angela are both barely in their early twenties and yet life seems to have aged them well before their time.

Lucas meets Maureen (a former newsreader) who claims that her daughter Christina is the miracle. The only proof to her claim is that the child only smiles when she likes someone. Lucas introduces his wife to Maureen and her daughter, an unwise move in these terrible times as women are only allowed to associate with female relatives. Things take a different and dangerous turn for Lucas and Angela and their lives are completely changed.

This is a very interesting thought-provoking book. A fantastic book club pick. I enjoyed its directness and the power it gives to the reader's imagination to fill in the gaps rendering it a work of horror at times. Although laced with humour this is far from a humorous read. Dark and disturbing where at times survival alone is a miracle in disguise!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is what you get for believing the Daily ****., 14 July 2012
This review is from: The Miracle Inspector (Paperback)
I shouldn't mention the name of my least favourite paranoia-inducing newspaper; insert your own.
Helen Smith has taken some of the fears and obsessions of today's society, then twisted and exaggerated them to create a dystopian vision of the future.
Fear of terrorists has closed the borders and grounded the planes, not just keeping the terrorists and tourists out, but shutting in the citizens and any hapless foreigners caught in the net.
Fear of paedophiles has closed the schools and most of the churches.
Fear of rapists has confined women to their homes, apart from visits to 'relatives' during the hours of daylight while dressed in a burqa (or something very similar).
Paranoia is irrational or exaggerated fear, out of proportion to the true level of threat. This is what we have in "The Miracle Inspector". Added to that is a government and bureaucracy which are, to various extents, pointless, inefficient and random, while also chillingly repressive. Few people survive beyond fifty: most have been arrested as potential terrorists, paedophiles or rapists. Next door to the Head of Security (who is more interested in spying on his wife in the shower than state security) is a government department for monitoring cat ownership. Then there is Lucas, the Miracle Inspector, who spends his days looking at pictures of the Virgin Mary in home-baked goods. He hasn't found a miracle yet. The society is a mixture of sharia law as practised in Saudi Arabia, religious superstition from somewhere with a lot of faith and not a lot of education like rural Bolivia, surveillance and disappearances from any totalitarian state you care to name and satirical silliness from Bulgakov, Kafka or Zemyatin, plus a bit of the 1950s as depicted in washing powder advertisements. That is how I saw it. Helen Smith describes it obliquely, with glimpses of parts of the picture, never the whole at once.
Does it work as a portrait of a fractured future Britain?
It does for me.

The main characters in the story are Lucas, the Miracle Inspector, and his wife Angela. They are fairly sure they still love each other, but they do not understand each other or communicate. They decide that everything will be perfect if they can just get away from London and go to Cornwall or Wales or Australia, places they know nothing about. You just know that it is not going to work. They need a miracle, and we have already discovered they are in short supply.
Lucas does something very risky. He goes to meet Joanna Jones, the wife of the Head of Security, who he has seen naked on Jones's computer. When Jones calls at his house and meets Angela he is enraged. This incident contains the least gratuitous use of a very rude word I have seen in fiction.
Another character in the story is Jesmond, a drunken poet and friend of Lucas's parents when they were alive. Jesmond doesn't do much these days, apart from drink a lot and occasionally turn up and scrounge a free meal from Angela, but he is the focus of resistance and young dissidents gather at illegal assemblies to hear him read his old poems. Is any association with Jesmond dangerous for Angela and Lucas? Jesmond leaves a journal and some letters with Angela. What is Jesmond's story?
Lucas goes to investigate a possible miracle. Maureen has a disabled child called Christina who, Maureen says, can cure people and save lives. Instead of dismissing the claim as usual, Lucas takes Angela to meet Maureen and Christina. Christina does become a live saver in a way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark dystopia, 5 May 2011
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This review is from: The Miracle Inspector: A Dystopian Novel (Kindle Edition)
Lucas and Angela live in a very different London, one that has been partitioned, where schools and theatres are shut, women are not allowed to work and may only visit family, going out veiled, and men are employed by an abundance of new government departments. Lucas is the miracle inspector, checking out many and varied reports of potential miracles. They are a young couple who believe they love each other but can't quite work out where their relationship is going wrong. They decide to try and escape London to get to Cornwall, envisaging a wonderful new life there, Angela it seems mostly looking for a more fulfilling life, Lucas to please Angela and get out before his connection to rebellious elderly poet Jesmond is discovered. In a place where most men die young, having joined the ranks of the Disappeared, he has reached a good age living underground and is a legendary figure.

The worrying thing about this novel is that it isn't too hard to believe this dark and very miserable picture of the future, where women are imprisoned in their own homes and lives are governed by fear of paedophiles and rapists. Yet despite the gloomy setting there is humour to be found in the book, albeit mostly dark humour. I very much like Helen's style of writing, her satirical humour and wonderful descriptions.

I have to admit I didn't particularly click with either of the main characters, although they do seem more hopeful and less downtrodden or cynical than the others we encounter. I think my favourite was Jesmond, and I would have liked to have found out more about him and his past. In fact generally I would have liked to have found out more about the intervening period and what had happened to get to the London featured in the book. Was it one major event or a series of rights being eroded and gradually accepted?

This was definitely a book that got me thinking, was well formatted for the kindle, and left me wondering whether ultimately Lucas had found his own miracle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Searching For Miracles In A Dystopian London, 10 Jan 2011
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This review is from: The Miracle Inspector: A Dystopian Novel (Kindle Edition)
In a near dystopian future, England is partitioned and all those living in London are subject to an oppressive regime. Women cannot work outside the home; transportation is limited; poetry, schools and theatres are banned. Drawn together by their desperate circumstances, Lucas and Angela's relationship is beginning to fray... until they decide to escape from London, and set upon a dark and twisted path.

The Miracle Inspector is a modern re-telling of dystopian classics such as 1984. The story begins with Lucas, whose job it is to inspect miracles-most of which are, rather obviously, hoaxes. Angela, in the meantime, is stuck at home with nothing to do, and the strain is beginning to show. The two are stuck at an impasse in their relationship, until the words and memory of an outspoken poet stirs them into deciding to escape to Cornwall, supposedly a luxurious haven.

What follows is a darkly comic tale of how their plans fall to pieces, with Angela and Lucas separated early on and forced to find their own paths. Inside London, they must confront the mindless bureaucracy and civilian spies, in danger of being imprisoned at every moment. But outside of London, nothing is as they expected as the characters all search for a miracle that may not even exist.

The Miracle Inspector is a story about the human struggle for survival, about freedom and persistence in the face of despair. From a larger viewpoint, the novel could perhaps be considered a commentary on the politics of bureaucracy, government paranoia, and scaremongering tactics, all of which result in the oppression of women, children, and artists.

The female oppression evident in Smith's vision of the future was highly reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, with women needing to wear concealing cloaks outdoors, women who -- not being allowed to work -- have only pregnancy to look forward to. I found it rather interesting that it is this oppression which sparks the entire plot, because Angela is the one to urge Lucas into action; without her intervention, I doubt he would ever have planned to escape. While Lucas does show courage and resilience later on, I wonder whether he ever would have set down on this path without Angela's urging.

The open-ended conclusion throws much of these issues and philosophical arguments into relief, and may leave you wondering what a miracle is, and whether the characters have found one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting take on the future, 16 Aug 2010
This review is from: The Miracle Inspector: A Dystopian Novel (Kindle Edition)
This story is described as "A darkly comic literary novel set in the near future".

Dark? Surely. Comic? Absolutely. Enjoyable? Thoroughly! However, I do have to confess that I hope this author's reflection of the future is off--way off! I wouldn't want to live is such a world, but unfortunately, in this 'terroristic' day and age, such a society is all too easy to imagine. It's frightening, actually, how realistic Ms. Smith's musings are; she paves a path for the reader to envision a clear view of what could turn into a very scary destiny for us all.

I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Helen Smith is a talented author and I will be buying more of her work.

~Donna Fasano~
author of The Merry-Go-Round
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3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Special, 16 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Miracle Inspector: A Dystopian Novel (Kindle Edition)
Saw lots of adverts and recommendations for this online, but was left disappointed. Didn't empathise with the main characters, perhaps just not my kind of thing
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