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on 10 December 2011
Like most other reviewers, I enjoyed Lelic's first novel, despite his tendency to use stereotypes: the sexist cops, the dumb jock of a gym teacher.
The Facility was less good.
There were even more over-familiar figures: pompous, lying politicians, heartless doctors, brutal prison guards, crusading journalists: all a bit BBC.
I also found the treatment of the patients at The Facility utterly mystifying. Why did they have to be abused so badly? Is Lelic trying to make them ciphers for terrorists? If so, why?
It's great, however, that Lelic is dealing with modern issues and concerns. Once again, his writing is meaty with plenty of strong imagery and technique, but in The Facility I also found it pedantic, earnest and long-winded. Many pages of 'personal story' could have been cut. And although billed as a thriller (isn't everything these days?) there are few thrills: little happens and there is little tension. The facility is established, a journalist tries to find out the truth, there's a predictable government cover up, murders etc and that's pretty much your lot. The author doesn't try very hard to surprise us.
Lelic's strengths and real interests (as demonstrated in Rupture) seem to lie in character analysis and motivation: in The Facility, none of the characters are fully formed or idiosyncratic enough to truly 'live'. A stronger book might have centred purely on just one of the major characters: the Facility's director, Henry Graves, and his moral struggle with his work, or the wrongly imprisoned Arthur Priestley. I'm not sure throwing in the 'thriller' aspects helped the novel at all.
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on 17 January 2011
Like many other reviewers on these pages I was eager to read The Facility having loved Simon Lelic's first novel Rupture and I was not disappointed. While different in scope and subject to its forerunner Lelic once again unflinchingly tackles some of the thorniest issues facing modern society. The Facility, which is set in the near future, depicts a nation in which stringent anti-terrorism legislation is regularly used to curb the civil liberties of a populace all too willing to shrug its shoulders and accept the "necessity" of such draconian measures.

The plot is darkly gripping throughout, while the central characters are all briliantly drawn. The tortured Henry Graves is a particularly strong character and, as with Rupture, Lelic demonstrates an uncanny ability to garner sympathy for those that on face value do not deserve it.

Although some have criticised Lelic for not continuing with the innovative narrative style of Rupture, which gained him so many plaudits, I am glad that he resisted the temptation to follow what was obviously a successful formula. Lelic's storytelling is strong enough to stand alone and this pacy, high-brow thiller does not need technical trickery to maintain the reader's emotional involvement until the very last page.

With his taut writing style and elegant, often poetic prose, Lelic is rapidly turning into one of the nation's finest new authors.

A 1984 for the i-pod generation!
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VINE VOICEon 25 January 2011
Simon Lelic's first novel, Rupture, was such a breath of fresh air last year that as soon as I got his second I started reading. Would it be as innovative as his stunning debut, Rupture, or would it be a `difficult second novel'?

I'm pleased to report that it's rather good. While lacking its predecessor's way of interleaving a good police procedural with striking first person statements from those involved, The Facility is instead a thriller, and it does have a style all of its own...

As the book opens a prisoner called Arthur is being interrogated in violent fashion immersing us in strong language, torture and crudity on the part of the questioners. Immediately you are aware that reading the book will require a degree of stamina to cope with it. Chapter two switches to a secret government establishment; the Governor, Graves, is showing the a minister from the home office around the as yet unoccupied building...

"Jenkins jabs his chin towards the centrepiece of the quad: a fountain, depicting Neptune in a chariot behind three horses. `A touch extravagant, would you not say?"
`It is hideous, I know. The whole building, really, is an architectural chimera. His Majesty, for one, would not approve. There's Gothic here, Romanesque there, Palladian and Tudor in the outbuildings. None of it original, of course. Except for the staff quarters, which were built in the fifties.'
`You got it working, though. You left the damp but fixed the fountain.'
`It was no great expense, minister. We felt it would be beneficial. The sound of running water, a place for the men and women to gather. You understand, I'm sure.'
`They are prisoners, Graves.'
`They will be imprisoned, minister. It is perhaps not quite the same thing.
`Guff,' says Jenkins. `Of course it's the same thing.' "

The scene is set, we're in the near future - King Charles would appear to be on the throne. The government du jour have put in place `The Unified Security Act' which was designed for terrorists, but in practice let's them do whatever they want to whomever they want. 'Guantanamo UK' as a newspaper headline says in the book.

We've still one more thread to pick up - Arthur's wife visits an investigative journalist, Tom, convinced her husband has been `disappeared' wrongly by the police. They're not telling, so Julia implores Tom to take up the case, and against his editor's better judgement of it all being a conspiracy theory, he does.

The thriller then works out through these three voices - Arthur, the wrongly imprisoned man; Graves, the former prison Governor who is not happy being involved in this top-secret work; and Tom, searching for answers. It soon becomes clear that most of the inmates are sick, but that Arthur is not. Government doctors arrive talking of trials for a cure, Graves finds himself overruled, largely impotent to help and essentially trapped - `you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave' as the Eagles sang in Hotel California. I found Graves the most interesting character by far as he comes to realise his own guilt at being part of this plan.

`What if' novels always have big questions at their heart. For all we know, we could already have a dormant `plague-hospital' in a sparsely populated area of the country. The author shows some anger at the way people who have not been charged with anything can be treated; at homophobia and racism; political double-speak; and so on. For the most part, he doesn't attempt to answer any of the questions, leaving them hanging, keeping you thinking about them. In this way he subverts the thriller genre with this pessimistic view of the near future.

This is a bleak and unsettling book which I really enjoyed reading. Rupture was a `Whydunnit'; The Facility is a `What if' - I wonder what question his third book will pose?
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on 22 February 2011
From the moment you begin The Facility, you're drawn into Simon Lelic's world of damaged characters fighting against the inpenetrable processes that have grown up around them. The narrative unfolds from three viewpoints, and for moments throughout the book you think you know which way the story is going. But then Lelic yanks it in a different direction and you're left breathless and guessing again.

On the surface, The Facility's main mission is to comment on how the actions of a future government have subtly shifted expectations so the characters accept restrictions on their lives that they should never have agreed to. But underneath it's the characters themselves that prove to be most fascinating - whether it's a reluctant crusader harbouring a guilty desire, a control freak who is secretly floundering, or an upstanding member of society coping with being thrown into an alien underworld.

Let's get this straight - The Facility is a bleak novel. Without having to resort to showy scenes, Lelic slowy strips you of your hope, and then makes things doubly worse when you turn the page. The experience of reading it is suffocating, but it is this feeling that makes The Facility work so well. You're not just reading about the characters - Lelic lets you feel what they're feeling through focused prose that manages to be shocking and charming, sometimes in the same sentence.

Rupture - Lelic's first novel - put him on the map. His second novel demonstrates that he doesn't need a map: He's created his own world and is challenging you to visit instead.
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on 7 June 2012
I hadn't read Lelic's first novel, so came to this without knowing quite what to expect. Well. This book is bleak, gripping, and disturbing. I'm not sure yet whether I enjoyed it or not, but it was certainly a good read. For dark thrillers, this must be one of the darkest.
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A sinister government establishment, The Facility, has been opened in the Cornish countryside, the purpose of which is to receive a category of detainees who need to be isolated from the mass of the population for fear of contamination. The facility is staffed by Prison Service staff, assisted by a tough and unfeeling team of private security guards.

Arthur Priesley, a dentist from Ealing finds himself under interrogation in this 1984-type Facility, unsure what crime he is supposed to have committed but soon made aware that his sexuality is under question - despite the apparent uninterestingness of his life.

Meanwhile Arthur's estranged wife Julia, armed with a grainy video of his arrest, consults investigative reporter Tom Clarke. Together they set off on a quest to find out what it is that the Facility is concerned with. It turns out that a new and deadly disease has appeared, like AIDS, only affecting gay-men, and requiring strict quarantine. The Facility has been created in an old-country house to intern the sufferers and also to enable medical experiments to be conducted on them so that a cure can be found.

I won't go further into the plot - in some ways the book could be said to write itself for having created a mysterious government establishment and a couple of determined investigators the rest is inevitable. Much of the book is very well done, but perhaps having chosen this topic to write about, Simon Lelic got rather trapped by the formula with all its must-have features - government cover-ups, the moral dilemmas of a staff leading a team of brutal security guards, renegade doctors with wild ideas about a "cure" and a rag-bag of internees in various stages of a fatal illness. Poor Tom and Julia are met with non-cooperation at every turn as they try to find out what happened to Arthur, and when they eventually set out to try to find the facility, deep in the Cornish countryside, they find their own lives in danger.

I enjoyed reading the book, but it somehow didn't surprise me, partly because I've read quite a few similar books before. I found the book's style reminiscent of John Wyndham`s books of the 1950s, but I was also strongly reminded of José Saramoga's Blindness in which random people are suddenly struck with blindness and interned in a redundant mental institution under a vicious and authoritarian regime.

If you've read Blindness, you're going to find The Facility a familiar place, but without Saramago's in-depth and highly literate exploration of what it means to be interned with fellow sufferers of a dreadful medical condition.

As I was reading The Facility, I couldn't help but think of so many television series on similar themes - the young reporter challenging a government cover-up, aided by a grieving but beautiful relative of an innocent suspect. The Facility is just made for a four-part BBC drama series (where alas, it will seem just too much like quite a few series which have gone before).
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 January 2011
Second novels can be tricky things - particularly when the first is as strong as Simon Lelic's Rupture was. There are some writers for whom the reader marvels at where the inspiration comes from and others, like Lelic, for whom the inspiration is clearer, in this case from the media. As with Rupture then, Lelic takes real social issues and weaves a tale of moral dilemmas. The Facility shares many of the good things about Lelic's first book - believable characters and strong, realistic dialogue and there's no doubt that it's a well written book that I enjoyed, but it's not quite in Rupture's league.

In Rupture (if you haven't read it, I'd strongly recommend you do so) Lelic deals with real issues - bullying, sexism and school shootings - that have and are occurring (albeit in the case of school shootings, more in the US than in the UK due to gun laws) while in The Facility, he turns his eye to the threat of terrorism, freedom of speech, unlimited detention without trial and homophobia. The Facility is set in some unspecified near future (there's a king who admires architecture and one character refers to the 2009 MP expenses scandals and expects the other character to be familiar with this) in which unlimited detention is allowed as an anti-terror measure. He then sets about arguing against it, but in order to do so, he extends the use to abuse of the act, and not only in the way that might be expected but by taking a particularly unlikely abuse of the powers (which I won't reveal here). In fact, it's not until a third of the way through the book that there is a turn that reveals the true plot of this story which is somewhat brave as it changes the reader's perception.

But that's another thing that is a feature of Lelic's writing - often the reader doesn't know what's going on and it takes a while to sink in. I don't particularly dislike this aspect, but I know some readers of Rupture found this confusing and here the issue is magnified.

The story is told through three people's perspective: Henry Graves the head of the eponymous Facility; Arthur Priestly an innocent dentist who is detained wrongfully in the facility; and a young journalist Tom Clarke, who together with Arthur's wife, Julie, set out to expose the truth.

For me it lacks the strength that Rupture had. While Rupture took something that is happening and spun a tale around a set of important issues, in The Facility, Lelic has to exaggerate and create a case in order to knock it down so it loses some of the urgency and moral strength of the former book. It also lacks a character as strong and sympathetic as Lucia May, the detective in Rupture. Ultimately, it seemed too unrealistic (there's one piece of medical testing practice that is particularly unlikely for example) and the moral argument that is so strong in Rupture loses impact when what he is arguing against is something that the writer has created. In saying that, the writing remains taut and I will be first in line for future books by this author.
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on 17 January 2011
I was really looking forward to reading this book after enjoying Rapture so much and I can honestly say, the wait was well worth it.

The storyline is one that keeps you hooked from start to finish and I can honestly say I could not put this down until I finished it.
I really warmed to the characters and the plot was very believable, which is somewhat scary when you realise how close to reality this could be.

It would make a great film as well as an extremely enjoyable book and I really cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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VINE VOICEon 7 February 2011
This is an intense read. The facility, as it is called is menacing and uncomfortably plausible. How frighteningly easy it is for an innocent person to be caught up in something so insidious. Equally awful for those who were there not by mistake, but who did not deserve to be treated in such a way. Simon Lelic has written a very tight,tense walk on the dark side of dirty dealings, cover-up and the subversion of justice. I found this book to be better than 'Rupture', which was already a good book. This is clearly an author to watch. I like the fact that for a second book he has written a completely different type of novel rather than sticking to a 'formula' because it worked the first time. Smart guy. Everything is pitched just right, from the feelings of paranoia, real and yet sometimes displaced (which after all is how paranoia works), to the feelings of helplessness and swings from despair to hope, resignation and outrage. He captures it all beautifully.
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Simon Lelic's novel is about a near-future Britain where a public health emergency collides with the draconian powers granted to the authorities in the name of the prevention of terrorism, and is therefore nothing if not topical.

The good - Lelic's prose style is good, and this reads far more like literature than your average techno-thriller. The characters are well-sketched and believable, and the dialogue is realistic. In terms of the mechanics of writing, the book reads well, and I finished it in a couple of sittings.

Unfortunately, what let the book down for me was the unlikeliness of the plot. Without giving too much away (as it is revealed within the first 50 or so pages), the eponymous facility is a prison for the victims of a new plague, not unlike HIV, to which sufferers are taken against their will. The trouble is that, given the small number of people infected and the relatively non-infectious nature of the disease, it is hard to understand why any government would do such a thing rather than just treating the individuals in question in hospitals. The blurb makes reference to Orwell and Kafka, but this to me seems like wishful thinking - in "1984", for example, the actions of the state make sense in context; in this novel, they do no such thing, but merely serve to provide a framework on which to hang the rest of the plot.

If you can suspend your disbelief about the sheer unlikeliness of the storyline, this is a decent enough read, but for me that's a very big "if".
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