The Dying Light Paperback – 16 Sep 2010
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If the best thrillers should disrupt all sense of cosy complacency, Henry Porter's The Dying Light made just emerging from under the duvet seem a risky prospect. The author and Observer political commentator has woven an upsetting truth into his fiercely intelligent tale of a near-future, police-state Britain - all the legislation necessary to create the "technological totalitarianism" he depicts is already in place (METRO)
A vibrant thriller dealing with some of the great concerns of his [Porter's] journalistic career: the surveillance state and the erosion of individual liberty. Although set in the future, it feels as up-to-the-minute as tomorrow's headlines (NEW STATESMAN)
A tense, intelligent conspiracy thriller set in a horribly plausible future-present Britain where surveillance is so pervasive that it's impossible to do anything unobserved (THE GUARDIAN)
Porter rails against that very British apathy which has already allowed the state to pass all the legislation necessary to turn his dystopian nightmare into reality - the same apathy, ironically, which makes such nakedly polemical British novels so rare, and welcome (DAILY TELEGRAPH)
For those who like political thrillers, this is one of the season's best: scary, informative and, alas, eminently believable (ECONOMIST)
A compelling thriller which at the same time is a persuasive polemic about the threat to civil liberties in the United Kingdom (LITERARY REVIEW)
The book is a salutary warning of what happens when big business and politics end up in bed together. I'm sure some with think Porter to be paranoid. The rest of us will feel it's terrifyingly plausible (REVIEWING THE EVIDENCE.COM)
Porter has all the talents of a good thriller writer, particularly strong, crisp characterisation and the ability seamlessly to blend action and expertise. What really stands out in this novel, though, is the grimly plausible glimpse he gives us of a future that is already creeping up on us: a United Kingdom where elements of government and corporate interests are combining to monitor and ultimately control the lives of the country's citizens (SPECTATOR)
Beautifully written, sophisticated thriller (BIG ISSUE IN THE NORTH)
Set in a mdoern Britain where surveillance reigns like the one remaining eye of God, this is a tense and claustrophobic conspiracy thriller. (CATHOLIC HERALD)
A wonderful novel. I read it addictively and was sorry the minute it was over. It's way too good to be called a thriller (Richard Ford)
A gripping and thought provoking thriller (CHOICE)
Foreseeing the Prism/GCHQ story, a chilling thriller of the police-state that the UK is about to become...from GUARDIAN journalist and novelist Henry Porter, 'one of the masters of the genre' [SUNDAY TELEGRAPH]See all Product description
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The heroine, Kate Lockhart, is thrown into a dangerous attempt to uncover the rotteness of the government after her estranged best friend is killed in a bomb blast and puts her unwillingly in the centre of a last-ditch effort to save British democracy.
The best thing about this book is Mr Porter's characterisation: he vividly describes all the actors in the drama. He introduces us to an unlikely band of heroes and villains, and people sitting uneasily inbetween. All the characters have human doubts and fears, but those on the good side also burn brightly with a deeply human longing to live freely and make their own decisions about their own lives. They retain a moral compass that the government lost long ago thanks to the death of ideology and to the cult of managerialism and centralisation.
Though it would be wrong to expose the twists and surprises in the plot (of which there are enough to make the book almost impossible to put down!), it is worth stressing - as Mr Porter does in his Afterword - that all the laws used and abused by his fictional government are already on the statute book. So on one level this book is a frightening and thought-provoking exposé of a country that has sleep-walked into putting too much trust to politicians and civil servants who rarely reciprocate by trusting the people to get on with their own lives without nannying or worse. The only thing standing between Britain in 2009 and Mr Porter's fiction is the relative decency of our current rulers.
At the same time The Dying Light is also an uplifting story of the bravery of some very human people in the face of authoritarianism run rampant. In this way it reminds me of the outstanding film The Lives Of Others: just as the film movingly depicts the heroism of the dissident and of the Stasi officer whose humanity makes him rebel against the machine in which he is a human cog, the key characters of this book include both public servants whose moral qualms trump deference to authority and would-be free spirits. Buy this book - you will finish it in a few sittings but you will have much food for thought well after you read the last page.
Paradoxically, the snag with this gloom-casting novel is its optimism. Despite the newly invented surveillance machines, the all-over telephone recordings, the accurate pin-pointing of where everyone is, our heroes and about a thousand of their supporters evade supervision and walk through police and military barriers as if by magic. Politicians wary of the new developments continue to function at Westminster even after they have been exposed. Suspected dissidents are listed, their life histories recorded down to the last pimple, their photographs distributed, but they walk through. In reality, the power mongers, if they finally take over, will not be so gentle, will not stop for a chat, will not reject torture and prison camps, as we already know. George Orwell's 1984 is referred to in this book, and that is surely a more realistic view of a dark future. Not a happy ending. But if The Dying Light is a call for us all to be more aware of the bad things that happen around us, it is welcome. And not a bad read!
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