It almost seems like I’m reading as many new books this year as I am getting new LPs. Last week’s (first) read was the latest novel by the excellent Ken MacLeod.
‘Intrusion’ utilises another near future setting although without the police procedural elements of ‘The Night Sessions’. The central characters are Hope and Hugh Morrison who are expecting their second child. But they face a dilemma – will Hope take the Fix, a miracle pill which sets right genetic defects before birth? Well, why wouldn’t she, looking out for her unborn kid and all that? Yet Hope stubbornly refuses to take the Fix.
Initially this looks like it might be a very muted SF novel, exploring the issues of choice versus coercion for the common good. Which I would have trusted MacLeod to deliver on. But then a couple of chapters in, someone walks through a wall. From that point on there’s a tantalising mystery hanging over the rest of the book.
MacLeod is a superb world builder, arguably the best we’ve got, not least because with almost every novel he creates from scratch a believable and compelling universe. In this particular book you’re lulled into the world of ‘Intrusion’ through the eyes of Hope, a law abiding citizen who believes that the state is generally benign, even if there are things you disagree with. So there’s 24 hour surveillance, even in the home? It’s all for the good of the citizens and it couldn’t possibly be misused. The online predictive databases similarly are there for the good of everybody.
But when a court rules against a couple who do not wish to take the Fix, things start to get very complicated indeed. Hope and Hugh, and the people who get involved in her choice, are exposed to the darker side of the state with horrifying results.
‘Intrusion’ deals skilfully with some complex moral issues, adding in some weirdness to produce an original and thought provoking novel. It’s a rewarding book which raises important questions not just about the world we live in today but also a plausible but terrifying world that we could easily live in tomorrow – if we’re not careful.
But at least as important, as this is after all a work of fiction, is the story and that takes the reader in some unexpected directions before reaching a conclusion with real punch.