In the twenty-second century, earth is ostensibly a democracy ruled by plebiscites conducted on international television. The voting is actual, but true power lies with a select group of directors and an administrative council that allows only a few minor issues to reach the public. The brutal lot of the "undesirable" class and its increasing restiveness are not known by the larger public, since the undesirables have no political rights and no access to TV. Mark Grimal, a speechwriter in the administration and an unhappily married man, falls in love with a woman undesirable, and thereafter, the lovers endure a campaign of terror from security forces secretly allied with the criminal drug trade. Grimal's lover is raped, and when he finally secures treatment for her, she is given an adulterated antibiotic that kills her. Out of shock and grief, Grimal begins a guerrilla campaign against the bureaucracy that results in a plebiscite on the medical rights of undesirables, which begins, just barely, a cycle of truly democratic reforms. Smith, a retired foreign service officer, renders a brilliantly satirical portrait of a bureaucracy made of thousands of little evils whose sum is a monstrosity. This is fine, original work with an appealingly flawed central character. John Mort
From Kirkus Reviews
Social science-fiction from an American-born, now Nigeria-resident writer whose only other novel was published in Colombia. By the year 2120 the world is ordered by the tune-in-and-vote People's TV Assembly and its rotating chairmen: Mallam Ahmed of the South, Comrade Wong of the East, and Mr. Brown of the North; in reality, of course, the Global Administration manipulates voting behavior to produce any desired result. Most people live comfortable, safe, affluent lives; only the Undesirables, or UDscriminals, political dissidents, the mentally ill, cultists, and their children, all forcibly sterilized according to eugenic principleslive in rotting ghettos with only the most primitive of services and provide cheap menial labor. Like most others, the successful speechwriter and compulsive philanderer Mark Grimal barely notices the UDs until he seduces his office assistant, Christie Riccardi, falls in love, and becomes aware of the appalling circumstances of her blameless life. Lisa, Mark's trophy-style wife, finds out about the affair and threatens to inform Security Chief Jake Danzig, and by ignoring her, Mark begins to accumulate powerful enemies. Christie is beaten and raped and, despite all Mark's efforts, dies. He vows to avenge her by changing the world, but he knows that if he makes too many more waves he'll be tortured and brainwashed. Somehow, he must create a revolution from among his friends, co-workers, the UDs, and the women whose company he obsessively seeks. Refreshing, memorable treatment of a standard-issue ethical dilemma: an engrossing and beautifully rendered US debut. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.