Top positive review
A good read but slightly disjointed
on 13 April 2014
This novel is set about 30 years in the future. The Republic of England is a vassal state of a corporatist, crypto-fascist European superstate dominated by Germany. The heir to the throne is in exile in Switzerland and the continent is descending into armed insurrections and border disputes.
A lucky few English people live on the 'red estates' where their lives are strictly regulated in return for welfare payments; the rest must struggle to make ends meet under a regime of extortionate taxes, intergenerational mortgage slavery and euthanasia.
Against this backdrop, a new intake of young offenders arrive at Camp 37, a privatised prison run in the style of a National Service boot camp. It soon becomes clear, however, that the men are not there to be rehabilitated, but to be viciously exploited.
If that were not bad enough, there are more sinister developments occurring. A second Reformation and a wave of religious fervour has swept Europe following the discovery of some disturbing, extra-canonical books of the Bible. One of the inmates of Camp 37 begins to have terrifying religious visions which will drag his fellow prisoners into a tragedy.
I found the book very gripping and read it almost in one sitting. It is very well paced and believable, and I liked the little newsflashes at each chapter heading which outlined the political situation outside the prison. Fans of young-offender films such as 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Scum' will enjoy this novel, as will anyone who enjoys bio-horror such as the films of David Cronenberg.
I do have three criticisms of the book however which is why I have not given it the full rating. Firstly, there are quite a few typographical errors, particularly in reported speech, which is slightly offputting. It needs a good going over by a copy editor.
Secondly, I found it a little difficult to distinguish some of the characters as there are so many of them.
Thirdly, I thought the supernatural/religious themes slightly out of kilter with the themes of the rest of the book. It was almost as if the idea for another novel had been uncomfortably tacked on to provide a plot device. I was left wondering what all the religious stuff was really about; it would make a good book in itself, but here just seemed to be unresolved and unclear.
Overall however it is a great read and I think Mr Calvin is one to watch for the future.