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Dead Weapons Kindle Edition
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Set in the near future, this is dystopian Britain during a particularly divisive election campaign and with a backdrop of foreign wars in Muslim countries. Mmm, so perhaps not that far in the future...
Our hero is mixed race Ciaran Richards, aged 15, he is half-Irish, half-Jamaican: his Dad a dead war hero, his older brother in prison and his mum desperately trying to keep him on track.
The prospects of that don't look good when his brother blackmails him into doing one last job for him.
He is soon on the run from the police and a sinister branch of government: The Department of Weaponised Humans.
During the pursuit, he is helped by refugees who are the focus of the anti-immigration politicians, like the sensitively-drawn Ahmed:
"Why did you help me?” said Ciaran. The man sighed. “Before I fled my country, I saw many people being chased, and many people chasing them. It was a case of life or death that I learned to read the truth in faces. Who was the criminal? Who was the killer and who was the victim? I read the expression on your face; a boy, running from the police, with the expression of a victim.”
There are some great, vivid scenes:
A line of policemen blocked the road. They were holding batons, bulked up by layers of black riot armour, breath clouding like bulls in a field on an icy morning.
And moments that remained me of one of my favourite films, Wim Wender's Angels of Desire: but these winged creatures are nightmarish rather than angelic:
Then he saw it, outside the garage door, gliding down. It was man-sized but had outstretched wings. It landed alongside the police car, knees flexing to soften the impact and folded its wings behind its back.
Throughout, Woodward never lets the pace slacken. There is always a twist ahead, the plot gets murkier and murkier, and the violence is visceral. Tech geeks will love the terrifying inventions: I just hope they remain in Woodward's imagination and never get unleashed on to the street.
Be warned: this is future Britain, this is future warfare, if you let the military industrial complex and their puppet politicians dictate.
A tour de force.
At the heart of all this is an intelligent young man, cruelly affected by life's lottery and subsequently prone to making rash decisions with terrible consequences. When Ciaran makes yet another rash judgement, he finds his life spiralling rapidly out of control but this time he is forced to face up to his actions, rather than run away.
Ciaran embarks on a journey of discovery, redemption and revenge, all while moving in the shadows from a wildly dangerous secret government department. In a lonely and dangerous environment, his life soon becomes defined by technology, reaching a point where he cannot live with artificial intelligence - or without . Ciaran must reach his physical and mental limit to discover who he really is and where he has come from.