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  • GB84
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3.6 out of 5 stars29
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 12 March 2004
It's always been a given that David Peace is in hock to another crime writer with the initials J.E. and it's probably also the case that he's sick of hearing about it. However, he can't help but invite comparisons by following up a dark, region-specific quartet of crime books with a broader, more political novel that occurs chronologically after the last book. So this, then, is Peace's 'American Tabloid', and as Ellroy retreated to more conventional prose style after the ultra-lean, hyper-wired, beatnik-isms of 'White Jazz', so too does Peace abandon the more surreal, stylised linguistic curlicues that characterised '1980' and '1983' for a more prosaic, less-frenzied and sadly less poetic approach. This is certainly a pity, as with these last two books he was close to forging a distinctive authorial voice of his own. I, for one, was certainly awaiting his next novel with interest
That said, this novel is far from being a disappointment. In some ways, the Miner’s Strike and it’s various political and contributory sub-strata is perfect subject matter for Peace. Well structured, informative and still topical 20 years after the events it describes, Peace doesn't really put a foot wrong. As someone raised by Tories and who was 8 years old at the time, it certainly made me consider the media portrayal of events that I’ve not thought about for years. Best digested in as few as sittings as possible so as to keep track of the various minions of various trade unions, it has enough ‘secret’ (or ‘occult’, as Peace would have it) history and factual verisimilitude to work on both the intended levels. Occasionally, it’s downright thrilling, if never quite audacious enough to make you drop the book in disbelief at what you’re reading. One just can't help feeling that, while more relevant to UK readers, the subject-matter isn't as epoch-defining as the Bay of Pigs and assassination of JFK, and Arthur Scargill will never have the dark charisma and Wodehousian gift for the acerbic comment that Ellroy ascribes to J. Edgar Hoover.
Again, watching with curiosity to see what subject he moves to next.
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on 28 July 2010
Wow!! I have just finished this book and what roller coaster ride! I read a lot of books but I don't normally write book reviews unless I am particularly moved - and I found this book incredibly moving. I will deal with the negatives first as there are quite a few. The book is written in different strands, each strand denoted by different type face which I eventually got used to but I found it quite difficult at first.

There are large sections of this book that I still don't understand properly and I will admit to having no idea what Peace was on about! The `Mechanic' seemed to be there only to confuse and certainly succeeded with me, I still don't know what he was doing. The book was overly complicated by obscure references, statements and images and often seemed to assume knowledge that I for one didn't have. The supposed thriller aspect concerning Neil, Diane and the Mechanic was never as interesting as it thought it was - and as for Terry............well, still not sure about his sad little character. I also found the sexual imagery to be very male - but given that the main cast of the book is male as is the author I won't complain too loudly.

Having said all of this, the book as a whole is very readable once you stop trying to make sense of it because each story sort of works on its own.

On the positive side, the two miner's tales are extraordinary and heartbreaking - just heartbreaking. The writing is wonderful in this strand, you can hear their voices and feel the pulse of their lives and they feel like real people, I wanted to know what happened to them after the strike. The miners were ordinary working men who knew that their jobs were at stake and dared to make their protest heard in what they assumed to be a democratic country. The price they paid was a brutal, vicious onslaught on their lives by the full power of the state. This book vividly recreates the strike, how the power of the state was used to break them and the general feeling of oppression that some of us perceived during the eighties: the nuclear threat, Northern Ireland, unemployment, staggeringly high interest rates, the strike itself and the gradual, deadly erosion of civil liberties - reading this book brought it all back.

This book is exceptional, it is often difficult, irrelevant and frustrating but it is also a rollicking good read, very informative about the era in general and the strike in particular - and so well written in places that it broke my heart! This is the first book by Peace that I have read and I am not sure if I will read any more but I am very, very glad that I read this one. Read it.........everyone who lived through that time should read it and so should those who were too young to remember. It was a defining moment in our social and political history and we should all have a perspective on it, this book gives us more information on it than I have seen in any non-academic work.
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on 29 March 2010
GB84 starts at such a terrific pace that you can feel yourself right in the middle of the occassionally-shown archive footage of the Battle Of Orgreave. The novel's strength lies in its portrayal of the struggles endured by a pair of striking miners in their communities and with their consciences as the dispute lengthens to one year. Where GB84 fails is in David Peace's fantasy world of surveillance, fascist hit squads and the machinations of union officials and the Government's appointed strike breaker. The conclusion for the miners is known as fact and Peace's handling of the disputes endgame from their perspective is sympathetic and free from ambiguity. Unfortunately, he fails to achieve a satisfactory closure on the other strands of his story. The demise of a series of unsympathetic, emotionally flawed, under-developed and almost superfluous characters and their grubby plotlines left me with an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction, despite the vivid scene-setting of the early months of the strike.
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on 1 November 2006
I came to this book after reading Peace's brilliant "The Damned United" and found it another very powerful piece of writing. I am old enough to remember the miner's strike and the huge divisions it caused throughout the country. Peace has managed to convey this with the number of plots and sub plots that run through the book. Some of these do not quite work, however, what does come across and what Peace describes with great clarity is the anger and the sense of the inevitablity of the strike's conclusion. Anyone who feels nostalgic for the Thatcher years should read this book.
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on 10 August 2014
Really grim, but realistic and truthful. I could not stop reading it, particularly as I was a student in 1984 in South Yorkshire and engrossed in the Miner's strike and incensed at the prejudiced and uncaring Tory government of the time under General Thatcher. The bias in the media, the government manipulation of information all opened my eyes to the reality of power and politics, and this is laid open in this book. Grim, grim, grim.
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on 2 June 2009
David Peace's ambitious novel explores the social breakdown and violent disruption resulting from the 1984 miners' strike as well as the political manouverings behind it. Peace studies the collapse of society that took place in England as a result of political greed and corruption and rogue acts of lawless violence which were provoked by the police (according to Peace).

As a piece of writing, it is not always effective. The machine-gun prose, brilliant for passages of violent action and urgent confrontation, is less effective at conjuring the reality of the endless meetings and private discussions so that some important characters feel like clumsy stereotypes, and are frequently referred to by nicknames or titles. The violent visions of the Red Riding Quartet are more constrained. The multiple narrative threads do not always add up to satisfactory plotlines and elements of the narrative that surround Neil Fonatine seem more melodramatic than other aspects of the plot.

Yet the novel still remains a fascinating development of ideas, a comment on social divisions that may never have healed.
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on 23 August 2009
Cortonwood is now a retail outlet. The NUM headquarters remain on Huddersfield Road, opposite a new statue of Dickie Bird. The echoes of the great strike of 84 -85 remain whenever Forest play at Oakwell - "i'd rather be a picket than a scab".
This book captures the times and the feelings and you read it with a sense that things could have been different over the past twenty-five years - that the social collapse we have seen in the poorer parts of our country, in our Merthyrs and our Grimethorpes and our Shirebrooks, need not have happened in the way that it has.

This book is a rollercoaster of a read, flawed in parts but gripping throughout, and worth the investment in persisting despite the opaqueness of the beginning.
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on 22 April 2010
Coming off the back of the Red Riding Quartet, I was intrigued to continue with more of Peace's work and the natural flow of things took me to GB84. This book is almost as dark as the others, surrounding the various elements of the security services and their apparent acts of subversiveness at a time of industrial upheaval. As with Peace's previous works, anti-heroes abound in the novel.

It would appear Peace has honed his writing talents, but quite possibly to the detriment of his skill to tell an intriguing story. Just like the background subject matter, the book is an attritional read, the twisting of the various plotlines quite fascinating to attempt to disentangle. The central focus, or even raison d'etre of the novel, is the machination of the NUM and its battle with the Thatcher government, and the alternate plot surrounds and feeds off it. However the sections containing the union focus have a narrative with a tendency to be dry and languid. The result is a novel that is probably 100 pages too long. The cumbersome narratives of the internal NUM workings affects the flow of the intriguing passages focussing on "The Mechanic", Neil Fontaine, Malcolm Morris, and how the pieces all fit together.

Despite all of this, I did manage to remain strangely hooked, completing the book in four or five sittings, therefore the story is still a good one, but some may find certain aspects of the narrative somewhat tiresome. Stick at it, and you might just enjoy it.
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on 9 February 2005
Quite simply this is one of the most forceful and relentless slabs of prose I've ever encountered - and although I may not have succeeded in making it sound like it, that's a definite compliment. People may gripe about the echoes of Ellroy (which I personally feel are less of a big deal than they're made out to be), but Ellroy never made me well with tears at the same time as his writing made me feel like I'd been punched in the throat. Astonishing, in a word.
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on 4 May 2004
This is a remarkable novel that owes far more to Zola's Germinal than it does to James Elroy's novels. True, there is the fragmented dialogue and the astonishing ear for dialogue - the miners' diaries are amazing in their recreation of what it was like to be on the picket line, and the slow decline of the strikers' living standards and lives over the year. And there is the incredibly dark portrayal of the state's manoeuvres around the strike, but Peace is not a cynic, like Elroy, and he is dealing with a social struggle in a fundamentally positive way, unlike Elroy. Peace has heroes - the miners - whereas even the best characters in Elroy's utterly misanthropic books are thoroughly cynical and corrupted by their struggle. This isn't a joyful account of the strike, it is a truer than life portrayal of the forces at work and of the incredibly dark outcome - anyone who doubts that should just look back over the last 20 years and wonder what would have been different (and better) if the miners had won. A very powerful novel, which anyone who was involved in the strike will want to read; those too young to remember it should grab with both hands to understand what went on and why. The parallels with Germinal carry on right to the end, although viewed through a darker glass than Zola used. A fantastic read.
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