The premise of Playing Havoc is brilliant: What happens in individuals' lives following a solar flare? The setting on a small island in Britain allows for the characters' slowly dawning realizations about what has happened and what it will mean.
As readers, we are inside of the narrator's head. The positive aspect of this is that though we come to quickly realize the cause behind the failure of all electric devices, we learn how slowly it would unfold without broadcast news. The negative aspect, it a kind of repetitive list of the narrator's own thoughts and concerns. If you want to be mired in someone else's consciousness, you'll like this because I never doubted it was Giles re-considering his circumstances, but I found it a tad tedious at times.
That said, it was engaging to encounter a vast array of problems that would occur following such a cataclysmic event, problems both technological and social: from the failure of cell phones to the effects on plumbing, from declining resources to endless time, from stranded visitors to incendiary personalities. "What would I do?" is a question a reader asks repeatedly exploring unimaginable situations.
For the dystopic-minded "Playing Havoc" adds yet another vision of a future we'd like to avoid. But in this case, the pending apocalypse is large-scale and not within our power to avoid. Yet Morris' vision, as with many dystopians', is not dire; his characters provide hope. Just how that happens, you'll need to read to find out.
At first I thought it was another of the same that are cropping up, but placing the action on a small British island made it very interesting. I also liked the personal conflicts and interactions on the small island; they gave the story life. Short for my taste, but Steve didn't seem to leave enything out and it was quite enjoyable.
Playing Havoc is the debut full-length novel from short-story writer Steve Morris. I was impressed with his short-story collections, "In all Probability" and "Jumble Tales," and I was curious how well he would make the transition to writing a novel.
In short, Playing Havoc is a very well written and engaging story.
While I was reading Playing Havoc, I was reminded of the old Twilight Zone episode, "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street." The notion of cutting off the conveniences of modern society and watching as everyone tears each other apart has always appealed to me. And, I'm not alone. TV shows like Revolution are still exploring this idea. The biggest problem with most of these shows is that they become absurd. They all seem to presume the worst in people and that everybody will just start eating babies once the lights go out.
Steve Morris has more faith in humanity. Playing Havoc takes this idea and grounds it in reality. It acknowledges that some people wont carry their weight and others will resort to stealing and other deviant behavior. But incidents of violence are rare and far from gratuitous. This has the effect of creating more tension because you never know when one of the characters will finally be pushed over the edge.
Playing Havoc does amazing work in creating a cast of characters who all live and breathe. They all seem like people that you know, with all of their peculiarities. Trevor was a particular favorite of mine.
Overall, I have to say that Steve Morris has managed to move effortlessly into the realm of long-form story telling. Playing Havoc is a great story with well-drawn characters, grounded in reality with believable characters.
Playing Havoc is a story about what would happen if a large sun flare had knocked out most of the electronic devices in the world. Cars no longer run, cell phones are dead and there is no electricity. This really would become a world wide emergency.
The story is told in first person, almost as if it were a diary written by the main character, or you're possibly sharing a cup of tea with him while he tells you the story. A fairly anti-social man before the black out, the main character "Giles" has to learn to get along with his neighbors and find his place in the community. Along the way he runs into people who refuse to work, or do their share to help in the survival. Everyone seems to think that the emergency will pass soon, and the power will come back on.
A very well written book with an English personality. The story kept me reading, always wanting to know more. How will the people on the small island get food now that they can't just take the ferry to the mainland and buy it? Without electricity, they have no hot water. Their plumbing has stopped and they can no longer flush their toilets, or get fresh water from their sinks. Each day things look a little more desperate, and yet some of the characters still insist that things will be back to normal soon. A very good story from a fantastic author! A must read book with its own fantastic personality! Definitely 5 stars!
A very stimulating read indeed. Playing havoc is one of those books that nourish your thoughts, gripping you from start to finish. It is a black-comedy sci-fi story. It deals with the social (or anti social lives) of residents of a UK island after a massive solar flare fries every electronic device on Earth. Imagine surviving in these modern days without our precious gadgets and commodities. I found the plot to be highly original, and the characters well presented. Playing havoc is definitely something I would recommend and I will certainly sample other works done by the same author in the coming few days. In All Probability & Jumble Tales promise to be as stimulating a read as Playing Havoc.
It's great to see that Morris can do just as good a job on novels as he does on short stories. So what would it be like after the solar flare - read this and find out. Thank god I discovered him, life without Morris' books would now seem pointless. Crack on and write another one maestro.