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Intrusion Paperback – International Edition, March 7, 2013
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Imagine a near-future city, say London, where medical science has advanced beyond our own and a single-dose pill has been developed that, taken when pregnant, eradicates many common genetic defects from an unborn child.
Hope Morrison, mother of a hyperactive four-year-old, is expecting her second child. She refuses to take The Fix, as the pill is known. This divides her family and friends and puts her and her husband in danger of imprisonment or worse. Is her decision a private matter of individual choice, or is it tantamount to willful neglect of her unborn child?
A plausible and original novel with sinister echoes of 1984 and Brave New World.
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- Publisher : Orbit; Digital original edition (March 7, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1841499404
- ISBN-13 : 978-1841499406
- Item Weight : 10.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.12 x 1.02 x 7.8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,214,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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It starts with 'the fix'. Hope is pregnant with her second child and, due to a court case involving an atheist Iranian couple, comes under increasing pressure to take a pill that will not only protect her child from many of the common childhood diseases, but will also fix any genetic abnormalities. But Hope does not want to take 'the fix' for reasons that are never really clear, even to herself. It is a matter of choice, but a choice that many, even most, see as a 'no-brainer'. If swallowing a single pill could prevent misery to her child and, by the by, save society a deal of money into the bargain, who in their right minds would say no? But Hope does say no. And she is saying no, not only to a Brave New World , but to a stagnant humanity - good or bad. Are all genetic abnormalities inevitably deleterious? Would not taking such a pill mean that someone else has decided what is 'normal', what is good for society, above the rights of the individual? Of course, some people do opt out. There is an opt out for those with religious convictions - but really they are merely tolerated. And for an atheist to opt out is considered simply bizarre and anti-social.
On top of that, it seems that there is a basic underlying agreement, an unspoken compact between civil society and state authority. This is the 'free and social market', a precarious balance that, in a passage that owes more perhaps to Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor than Orwell , seems to describe the logical end point of some form of New Labour ideology. Geena's university lecturer spells it out to her when she comes running to him after a 'routine' bout of torture courtesy of the local constabulary:
'...the most important task in politics has become preventing people from realising that they're already almost there. That train has left the station. We've already crossed the border. State-capitalism can flip over - or rather, can be flipped over, overturned - into socialism in the blink of an eye, the moment people become conscious of the possibility. The point is to prevent them becoming conscious. Both sides already have relative abundance, universal education, extensive planning, formal democracy. Imagine the horror if people got it into their heads to put all these together for the purpose of, let's say, liberty, equality, fraternity!' (P123)
The politics and the technology are completely believable. And chilling. Echoing current discussions about the world wide web , the difference between a liberating and an oppressive, controlling technology seems merely to be one of attitude or, perhaps, ideology.
As an exposition and exploration of trends already visible all around us, this is a powerful book. But as a novel it's not so great. The politics are central, with the result that the characterisation suffers. I found it really quite difficult to 'believe' in Hope and Hugh, Geena and Maya - they seemed two-dimensional and unsympathetic and I didn't really care enough about them to get particularly worked up about their fate.
So, in all, this is a great book of ideas. It is a clear-sighted vision of some of the possible (even probable) directions in which our society is developing. But that vision is too strong for the characters to be much more than cyphers. Compared to the rumbustious and thoroughly likeable Mo Cohen of The Star Fraction or even the Travis family in The Execution Channel , Hope, Hugh, Nick, Geena and all never really 'came alive' for me. For all that, this is still a chilling and prophetic novel.
I requested and gratefully received this paperback from Orbit Books with the intention of reading and reviewing giving you my honest opinion.
So I'll start with the cover which did initially attract me to the book. It shows a spoon holding a rather "normal" looking somewhat inoffensive tablet. Upon reading the book you find out the tablet is called "The Fix" in simple, basic terms it is a tablet all pregnant women are encouraged and somewhat expected to take. The Fix claims to literally fix any genetic defects whilst the baby is in the womb. The title on the cover is in an attention grabbing red and its name of Intrusion totally fits the book when you read it. The authors name is in the same font but black which fits in with what I see as a clinical feel about the cover.
There is also a quote from Iain M Bank, "A twistedly clever, frighteningly plausible dystopian glimpse" I totally agree with Iain M Banks description of the book, but I don't like the quote being on the front cover! The cover would remain so much more clinical and striking without that quote! The quote should in my opinion be on the back cover of the book, with the quote by Cory Doctrow and the Guardian. It is one of my pet hates, quotes marring the beauty of a front cover, a by-line yes, a quote from another Author or reader no!
So now onto the book, as Iain M Bank says, the book has a twisted quality to it. I think it very representative of the increasingly present "big brother" society we are living in. This book and what happens in it re so realistically told that it isn't a large leap to think it could really happen in the not too distant future. I mean who knows what types of medication the scientists are developing.
The book tell the story of Hugh Morrison and his pregnant wife Hope. Hope doesn't want to take "The Fix" for no other reason really other than she just doesn't want to, she doesn't feel the need, her first son Nick who is fit and healthy was not subjected to The Fix in her womb so why should this pregnancy and baby be any different. Also I think like most women hope doesn't like to feel she is being told what she must do. So when the health visitor brings up her reluctance to take "The Fix" Hope explains her feelings. Bad, bad, move because now she is flagged up in the "system" as an "objector" and "troublemaker". There are legitimate ways to "get out" of taking "The Fix" you can object on religious grounds, some people do this even though they aren't really religious but Hope is principled and really doesn't see that as an option.
The society in this book is quite different too, it's sort of set in the future somewhat, its all very "big brother" is watching you, with cameras in your home watching you as well as in the workplace and on the streets. If you mix with people considered by the police/government to be unsavoury, or take off your monitor ring (if you are a woman & pregnant) that lets the health service know you have "been exposed" to smoking or alcohol etc.
For those few who dare to be different and perhaps even rebel a little they can be picked up and harassed. There's an incident in the book when a young professional woman is picked up by the police and interrogated because she has looked at a wall and seen the same piece of graffiti twice and not reported it! The poor woman is traumatised but too discouraged by the way the system works to even complain.
There's lots of new gadgets and ways of society in this book, but the weirs/strange thing is that I could really believe some of it actually happening.
The other aspect of the book is Hugh's family coming from a small Island surrounded by mystery, and suspicion and strange tales. Hugh's family are somewhat "different" as they have gene that allows "second sight" could this be a valid reason not to take "The Fix"
The book also deals with other people's reactions to Hope and her impending decision.
So what did I think to the book? Well it was rather wordy! (bit like my review)political and I suppose you could say controversial, at times some of the political stuff seemed to drag a little. Having said that I did really enjoy the book. The whole "second sight" issue part of the book was at times confusing, and not really explored as much as I would have liked. I was also a little disappointed in the ending, all that Hope had gone through . . . . and then for things to end as they did.
So did I enjoy the book? Yes! On the whole I did. Would I recommend the book? To a patient reader who loves debate and dystopian too, yes. Would I read more by Ken Macleod? Maybe.
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I was rather disappointed with the start of this novel as it fell into the trap of any novel written with a message. The first few chapters made it feel like a book written to give a message. These chapters dealt with introducing the characters, giving some background indications of the state of technology and the global political situation, and edging the reader into the space where issues of freedom, choice and liberty could come to the fore. I won't spoil the book by giving away specifics, but I felt the roles played by the characters were a bit stereotypical and everything was focused on setting the story up for the message and nothing included for window dressing or decoration. Sub plots do not play a significant part in this book.
Once Hope meets her local Member of Parliament at a rally for the Labour Party the book does step up a gear and the action flows much faster from there on in.
Ken wrote this book while he was Writer in Residence at the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum at Edinburgh University. As is obvious from his blog and other publications, Ken loved his work with the Genomic Forum and it was only natural that he should write a book on the subject and that he should weave in his excellent understanding of social issues and politics.
The message I took from the book was that a country that is implementing policies and laws based on good intentions in relation to childcare, health, etc... could display all the hallmarks of a totalitarian state, especially if the global socio-political environment gives rise to strong security agencies. I got a hint of Ken complaining abut the "Nanny State" and venting some irritation against the smoking ban in the UK. If I were a psychologist I'm sure I could interpret this entire novel as a lash at the UK government for banning smoking in workplaces.
I was disappointed however, to see Ken regularly using singular verbs with plural subjects in his reported speech. It doesn't help the standard of English usage if a well regarded author reinforces sloppy grammar.
Ken was good at portraying the feeling of living in a state where the population is constantly under surveillance. While the level of technology was different his writing did remind me of when I lived in Northern Ireland during the 1970s with constant surveillance by the army and police. The interactions with the members of the security forces were particularly realistic.
I enjoyed Ken's descriptions of Lewis. Given that the author grew up on Lewis it is obvious where he got his material and he demonstrated an intimate knowledge of the terrain and the difficulties of traversing it on foot.
Another attractive element was seeing the similarities between Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic. All the Gaelic words Ken used are pronounced the same way in Irish Gaelic, but the spellings are quite different. Also, the legend of Tir Nan Og (in Irish, "Tír na nÓg") is obviously the same on both sides of the North Channel. If you are not familiar with the tales of Tir Nan Og you should look them up. Knowledge of these would give a better understanding of what happens at the end of the book.
The book is a good read once one gets past the initial introductions and scene setting. Despite some silly, and somewhat extraordinary decisions by the characters, the book is enjoyable.
This is my second Ken MacLeod after "The Restoration Game" which I much preferred, so I was surprised to see that "Intrusion" actually gets a better average star rating.
My problem with "Intrusion" isn't with what it does contain, which is largely excellent - although i could have done without the Marxist lecturing. What lets it down is what wasn't included - this is a rare example of where I would like an SF book to be at least half as long again. The intrusion of the state into peoples' lives is well covered, but it should have been balanced by a bit more about the intrusion by the "other world" (I won't give a spoiler by saying what the "other world" is) and a lot more about our world's intrusion into the "other world".
Still and all, I finished it, quite enjoyed it, and will certainly read more of his stuff. If anyone who agrees with my relative ranking of "Intrusion" and "Restoration" could point me to what i should read next I'd be much obliged.
After I read this book I caught a few minutes of one of those "Traffic Cops" programmes aired on the Dave channel. Some poor bloke and his wife had misread their ferry departure time, turned in their transit van up 12 hours early and were unable to board the one that was leaving there and then. They decided to leave the van at the terminal and head off for some lunch and a pint then sit out their wait later on. Some busybody reported the van to the police as "suspicious" which of course then turns this into a "terrorist" threat.
The cops are about ready to call in backup when the owners return and explain why they left the van. Despite their explanation the cops insist this could be a terrorist threat and start quoting all sorts of sections of "terrorism" law to give them an excuse to nosey about their van etc. Surely if the cops had contacted the ferry operator and quoted the vehicle number plate the confusion and "threat" would have been cleared up instantly. But common sense never prevails in the face of an excuse to escalate fear levels and control.
This book is a story about where we're heading, every innocent lawful resistive action becomes a small red mark on one's record leading up to invasion by the state "for our own good".
MacLeod writes better than most SF authors and the book is both intelligent and a page-turner. It doesn't quite reach the bar as a literary work as the characters, though well-realised, fail to offer us any psychological insight. The author is more interested in ideas ... but this is SF. He wears his Marxism lightly, in any event.