1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is what you get for believing the Daily ****.,
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.