In The Flesh. TV ReviewComments Off
Writer: Dominic Mitchell
Director: Jonny Campbell
Starring: Luke Newberry, Ricky Tomlinson, Emily Bevan, Kenneth Cranham, Harriet Cains
Reviewed by Catherine Mann
Four years ago the recently deceased rose from their graves and shambled around eating brains. Local communities defended themselves, and the Human Volunteer Force was organised to combat the threat. Eventually drugs were developed to treat Partially Deceased Syndrome. PDS sufferers were placed in secure treatment centres and prepared to re-enter the community. Kieren is haunted by flashbacks of brain-eating as he’s released into the custody of his parents. Homecoming is difficult as Kieren is covertly returned to Roarton, a community which had an extreme reaction to the Rising.
In the Flesh is a three-part series that aired on BBC Three and is due to air on BBC America in August. It’s an excellent drama that does something new and interesting with zombies. Not only is the action set after humanity’s victory, it focuses continuation and renewal rather than survival. This review contains fairly significant spoilers and I suggest watching the episodes first if you want to remain spoiler-free. In fact I definitely recommend watching this miniseries if you can, it’s got strong performances and a brilliant script.
Kieren is the central character and it’s through his guilty, flashback, dreams that the audience gets a glimpse of what the Rising was like. There’s a little bit of gore, but the story isn’t about undead and humans killing each other. Kieren’s parents exemplify a certain type of British attitude. Despite the trauma of what happened and the miracle of having their son restored, they’re desperate not to make a fuss, to normalise the situation as much as possible. This leads to odd comedic moments, like Kieren pretending to eat at mealtimes, and his father’s desperately cheery attempts to distract from the fact that’s he’s essentially a prisoner in his own home. Local nurse, Shirley, cheerily visits to instruct the family on administering the daily drugs that PDS suffers need to remain aware. Her manic jollity is entertainingly at odds with the situation, though it’s clear that she’s put herself in danger. The only time Shirley gets serious is when she pulls Kieren’s mother aside and gives her a taser, for the emergency that everyone is desperately pretending won’t happen.
The only person willing to confront the situation is Jemima, Kieren’s angry sister. She’s heavily involved with the local HVF, and celebrated for her talents at killing rotters. The show follows the tradition of not using the z-word, though one of the strengths of the script and performances is that what’s left unsaid is as powerful as what’s spoken outright. Jem’s been taught that the undead are evil and Kieren’s return throws her into confusion. Her surly hostility masks a brittle hope that her brother might truly be back, mixed with the anger she felt after his premature death. However when Jem thinks Kieren is threatened her family loyalty comes to the fore as she and her parents grab hidden weapons and prepare to defend their household against friends and neighbours.
Defiantly undead Amy is probably the most refreshing character in the show. She doesn’t have family, or much connection to the community, and this frees her from the tensions of the rest of the cast. She’s independent and self-confident, and shakes Kieren out of his dazed discomfort. She encourages him to join her on day trips, and scorns the heavy make-up and coloured contacts that PDS sufferers use to mask their creepy appearance. She acts as though her condition isn’t important, putting people off guard with a mixture of bravado and surprising frankness. As well as being the only person who seems to be having fun, Amy also acts as confidante to Kieren when he reveals his suicide scars. However, Amy isn’t all bravery and humour, after she sees how little she’s accepted and how alone she is, she dons the make-up and leaves town. Even as they’re saying goodbye, Amy still has a smile and a joke for Kieren.
Bill is leader of the local HVF and, along with the vicar, is the driving force of local opinion in Roarton. The only thing that motivates Bill more strongly than his hatred for inhuman rotters, is his love of his son, who died bravely serving in Afghanistan. When partially deceased Rick is returned by the Army, Bill’s denial is so deep that despite the obvious facial scarring he insists that everyone treats Rick as a returning hero, even taking Rick on a rotter hunt. The history between Rick and Ren (Rick’s nickname for Kieren) is conveyed subtly. A scene that’s clearly a throwback to the situation when they were both alive shows that Kieren is only accepted by the local lads because of his close friendship with Rick. Bill’s approval dominates Rick’s life, and his relationship with Kieren is probably the only thing Rick ever had for himself. When the pair snatch time alone the tragic circumstances that led to their deaths is laid bare, albeit without overtly defining their relationship, which fits with the characters.
In some ways the community in Roarton acts like an extra character. Kieren hears about drugs that revert PDS suffers to their feral state and a movement that believes the undead are superior to the living. Despite these tantalising glimpses of wider context the story focuses on the events in the fractured community. A visit from a beleaguered Government representative early in the first episode shows a community angry at being abandoned but fiercely proud of their independence. Besides Bill’s HVF, the leading power in the village is the vicar, who uses the pulpit to spread his message and the parish council to impose his will. These are the forces that lead to an elderly PDS sufferer being dragged outside and killed in the street. The Roarton situation exemplifies how those who shout out and ride roughshod over others can come to dominate the peaceful and kindly intentions of more restrained people. There are no big damn heroes here, and the most dangerous folk are those who believe in their own heroism. The community has a quieter side shown by Shirley and her support group for wives and mothers. It’s in this safe space that we hear blunt accounts of how the reintegration has affected families and Kieren’s mother expresses the anger she feels towards her son for what he did years before. When events take a tragic turn it’s honesty in the family that allows Kieren to understand that his undeath needn’t be as miserable as the end of his life was.
Evil Dead II. Film ReviewComments Off
Director: Sam Raimi
Screenplay: Sam Raimi & Scott Spiegel
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry and Dan Hicks
Running Time: 84mins
DVD & Blu-ray
Reviewed by Guy Adams
How to describe Evil Dead II for the four people reading this who have never seen it? Imagine a Tex Avery cartoon that’s had a particularly bad time of it lately. Maybe it’s partner left it, maybe it lost its job, maybe it just looked in the mirror one day at it’s snarling teeth and twisted nose and decided life wasn’t worth the bother. It’s taken up drinking and, as the blurry weeks go by, the real world seems a place of less and less interest. Finally, one particularly delirious night, after consuming more than its body weight in industrial cleaner and cold linctus, it takes to the woods, screaming at the moon and fighting the trees with an axe it found in its cellar. Eventually it lies down in the slick, damp leaves and laughs until its sick. To that cartoon, Evil Dead II would seem perfectly normal.
As much a remake of Raimi’s seminal “video nasty” as it is a sequel, Evil Dead II takes the humourous elements of the first film and brings them to the fore. Rarely is a limb severed or chainsaw swung if not in the service of a grotesque belly laugh. The Bruce Campbell we all know, iconic chin of legend, is born here as Ash, the luckless hero of the movie who spends as much time being beaten silly as he does fighting the evil spirits who lurk in his poor choice of honeymoon location. By the movie’s close he has a chainsaw strapped in place of a hand, a shotgun strapped to his back and a grin familiar to psychiatrists the world over as “beyond help”.
It’s a jolly, inventive, intoxicating, absurd, explosion of a movie and I, like many, have always had a decidedly soft spot for it. The fun Raimi has with a camera is reason alone to watch it. It’s hugely self-indulgent and sometimes that can be a good thing.
On Blu-ray, the gushing stumps are presented crisp and juicy, the screams and demonic cackling clear enough to give cause disquiet amongst your neighbours.
The big draw for fans of the movie will certainly be the exclusive new extra ‘Swallowed Souls – Making of Evil Dead II’ . A ninety eight minute retrospective featuring interviews with a healthy collection of cast and crew. Also exclusive to the UK is ‘Road to Wadesboror: Revisiting the Shooting Location of Evil Dead II’ and ‘Cabin Fever’ a compilation of behind the scenes footage and deleted scenes. Ported over from previous releases are a commentary with Raimi, Campbell, Scott Spiegel and Greg Nicotero and ‘The Gore the Merrier’, another ‘making of’ piece.
A suitably comprehensive package, attractively presented. Worth the upgrade from the previous DVD releases and something we can throw at ignorant children whose only exposure to the franchise will be the impending remake (not that I’m being pre-judging… ahem).
Released April 15th
Blood Simple. Film ReviewComments Off
Director: Joel Cohen
Screenplay: Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh.
Running time: 92 mins
DVD & Blu-ray
Reviewed by Guy Adams
In the interest of full disclosure I love the work of the Coen Brothers. I think they make lovely, witty, beautiful films. I know not everyone shares this opinion, that is because some people have stupid eyes and shouldn’t be allowed in cinemas. A sad fact of life that is the burden of creatives everywhere. So, yes, I may be a little biased here…
But I’m right so it doesn’t matter. Blood Simple, their first movie, is an absolute masterclass of Texan Noir (note the capitals as if it’s a real genre that I didn’t just make up). A small cast of broken characters who play out their bloody Greek Tragedy (I didn’t make that one up) over a tight and atmospheric ninety minutes. Especially tight actually as this is the Director’s Cut of the film (unreleased on DVD in the UK until now). Usually Director’s Cuts are longer, footage re-inserted that was cut due to studio insistence. Not here. Here, the Coens went back to the movie and tightened it up, shortening shots and removing flab. Sigh… *wafts self in giddy admiration* they even go about the business of Director’s Cuts in a interesting way.
I rarely talk about plot (annoying I know but I think it important to give as little away as possible) and I stand by that here. For those who are unfamiliar with the film I will simply say this: it involves a misjudged affair, a broken-hearted bar owner, a deliciously grotesque private detective, three rotting fish and a spade.
Essential for anyone with taste.
Released April 15th
Entertaining Mr Sloane. Film ReviewComments Off
Director: Douglas Hickcox
Screenwriter: Clive Exton (based on the play by Joe Orton)
Starring: Beryl Reid, Harry Andrews, Peter McEnery, Alan Webb
Running Time: 90mins
DVD & Blu-ray
Reviewed by Guy Adams
When a film opens with Bery Reid, wearing a see-through frock, noisily eating an ice-lolly in a graveyard you can reasonably expect the tone of what is to follow. This 1970 film version of Joe Orton’s 1964 play relishes Orton’s enthusiasm for shocking audiences. A special feature on the disc includes the playwright’s appearance on The Eamonn Andrews Show, presenting us with this cheeky, quiet young man who takes great pleasure in challenging the sensibilities of those around him.
Beryl Reid’s lustful Kath happens upon the young Mr Sloane, doing topless exercises on a grave. To say she is smitten is to underestimate the sexual voraciousness of a Beryl Reid at the height of her ‘grotesque’ period (two years earlier having brought us The Killing of Sister George). She takes him home where he meets her myopic old father (who recognizes him as a runaway murderer) and promptly installs him in her spare bedroom. When her brother, ostracized from his father for being homosexual, visits he too falls under Mr Sloane’s spell and we find ourself in a distinctly unhealthy ménage à trois.
Of course, these days, we’re used to comedy that seeks to shock its audience as much as amuse them, in fact it’s become Hollywood’s default setting (though you can guarantee Judd Apatow will never come up with a line as lovely and absurd as ‘The air in Twickenham was like honey.’) It’s easy to forget quite how vicious this all seemed back in 1970. That said, Entertaining Mr Sloane still manages to cause moments of genuine discomfort and Exton’s adaptation of Orton’s script keeps a good deal of the refined, verbose dialogue that provides such a frothy counterpoint to the grimness on screen.
Well worth purchasing to remind yourself how black comedy can be.
Released April 8th
Camille 2000 / The Lickerish Quartet / Score: Film ReviewsComments Off
Director: Radley Metzger
Screenplay: Michael DeForrest (based on the novel La Dame Aux Camelias by Alexandre Dumas)
Starring: Danièle Gaubert, Nino Castelnuovo and Eleonora Rossi Drago
Running Time: 115 mins
Director: Radley Metzger
Screenplay: Jerry Douglas (based on his stageplay)
Starring: Claire Wilbur, Calvin Culver and Lynn Lowry
Running Time: 91 mins
THE LICKERISH QUARTET:
Director: Radley Metzger
Screenplay: Radley Metzger & Michael DeForrest
Starring: Silvana Venturelli, Frank Wolff and Erika Remberg
Running Time: 90 mins
Reviewed by Guy Adams
Dear Lord, Radley Metzger? What is Adams up to now? Is he watching porn while on the BFS clock? Well, no, not really… at least, not porn by modern standards. Not that I’m trying to gloss over the erotic nature of the films but I’m aware that they are likely to be ignored by a larger audience because of preconceptions and that would be a shame as there is a great deal in Metzger’s work that demands wider acclaim.
Arrow, that gleaming bastion of elevating the underdog with attractive and prestigious Blu-ray and DVD releases, have brought these three Metzger pictures out in UK dual-format editions. What is there here for the uninitiated?
Well, in Camille 2000, Metzger presents us with a genuinely beautiful and striking picture. As sumptious as the vey best of sixties Italian cinema, it’s a tragic love story that cannot be dismissed as softcore titillation thanks to the quality of both its photography and performances. Yes it’s about swinging, yes there’s a good deal of nakedness on offer but it’s all done so artfully and with a real sense of drama and soul that it’s a far richer picture than an ignorant viewer might expect.
The promise of Camille 2000 flourishes in Metzger’s next movie, The Lickerish Quartet which is quite simply brilliant. Strange, poetic and, yes, fantastical, it concerns a dysfunctional trio (mother, son and stepfather) who meet a woman they recognise from an erotic movie the stepfather has been playing on his home projector. Deciding to invite the girl home to their gothic castle, she then gets under their skin and reality itself takes a pounding. The movie they were watching changes with every screening and soon we can no longer tell who is who and what exists or doesn’t. Dreamy, surreal and, yes, sexy, The Lickerish Quartet is a weird and addictive little treasure that clings after viewing. A genuinely creepy little fantasy movie where sex is only one of the ingredients that makes up the whole, entrancing meal.
After such glories it’s little wonder that Score disappoints. Unlike the other two, it is much more simple in its intentions. Showing off its theatrical roots it plays out like a drawing room comedy, albeit one with far more fellatio than is strictly common. The story of a married couple who set each other sexual challenges, it is the only one of the three that can be labelled as nothing more ambitious than a bit of softcore fun.
Baise-Moi. Film ReviewComments Off
Directors/Screenplay: Virginie Despentes, Coraline Trinh Thi
Starring: Raffaëla Anderson, Karen Lancaume and Céline Beugnot
Running Time: 74 Mins
Reviewed by Guy Adams
The title to this controversial, French picture translates as “Fuck Me”, to which the only honest answer can be “no thanks.”
Released in 2000, it caused a good deal of controversy for its depiction of violence and explicit sex. It’s a simple enough Thelma and Louise style tale of two women who go on the run together. Both have snapped and committed criminal acts forcing them to abandon their (frankly rather horrid) lives and go on the lam. All of which is fine and clearly the movie has something to say about the emotional detachment that can result from abuse and poor life choices. It’s the fact that it chooses to say it with erect penises and gunfire that will always raise eyebrows.
Still illegal in some countries, it has finally been released uncut in the UK after the BBFC agreed that the original cuts they insisted upon could be waived. The argument between the censors and the filmmakers came down to whether the sexual content could be defined as pornography or not. Despuentes and Trinh Thi argued that pornography exists to arouse (and Trinh Thi and a good chunk of the cast hail from the industry so they should know) whereas the sex depicted in Baise-Moi was unambiguously unpleasant and included for dramatic purposes rather than to titillate. I might be inclined to argue that a competently staged rape scene is equally disturbing whether we actually see penetration or not (was Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible weakened by it’s lack of anatomical close-up?) but that somehow feels like being distracted from the main issue.
I could accept the extreme violence, I could accept the explicit sex, what I struggle with is that the film is not very good. It feels like a messy, badly acted and shot, student movie that has been remembered for the controversy rather than the creative content. A curious foot note in cinematic history that still gets discussed but for all the wrong reasons.
Arrow’s release certainly adds to that as their release presents a more polished package (special features, lovely booklet etc.) than the film itself deserves. Of course, some would say that’s the company’s standard policy, specialising as they do in beautifully presenting grotesque cult gems, but, for me, there’s a difference between celebrating enthusiastic, exploitation affair and supporting misplaced pretension. Baise-Moi thinks it’s important. It isn’t, it’s a miserable, grotty little film. A Gauloise cigarette butt floating in the clogged urinal of a Parisienne dive.
Accident. Film ReviewComments Off
Director: Joseph Losey
Screenwriter: Harold Pinter (from the novel by Nicholas Mosely)
Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Stanley Baker, Michael York & Jacqueline Sassard
Running Time: 100 mins#]
DVD & Blu-ray
Reviewed by Guy Adams
Given the potency of The Servant, one might expect this, a reunion of Dirk Bogarde, Harold Pinter and Joseph Losey, to struggle in the former’s impressive shadow. Far from it, Accident actually manages to outshine it.
Bogarde plays Stephen, an Oxford don who is struggling in his middle-age. His closest friend is one of his students (Michael York) a constant reminder of the youth he has lost and the social class he will never belong to. When Stephen develops feelings for another student, Anna (Jacqueline Sassard), he begins to truly realise the impotent man he has become, outshone in his career by his rival, Charley (Stanley Baker) and adrift in a life he can no longer connect with.
Bookended by a car accident outside Stephen’s home both Stephen (and, reluctantly, the audience) begin to realise that this tragic event may present an opportunity.
Accident is a complex, layered movie that offers Bogarde a central character who is both sympathetic and yet unforgiveable. Like The Servant before it, it creeps under the skin and begins to itch.
Studiocanal are bringing the film to Blu-ray for the first time (as well as a DVD re-release) with an attractive selection of special features (both exclusive to this release and ported over from previous versions). The restoration adds to the timeless quality of the film, ensuring it can be viewed at its best, a powerful and witty study of broken men and the effect they have on those around them. Yet another essential purchase this month.
Released April 8th
The Servant. Film ReviewComments Off
Director: Joseph Losey
Screenwriter: Harold Pinter (from the novella by Robin Maugham)
Starring: Dirk Bogarde, James Fox, Sarah Miles & Wendy Craig
Running Time: 112 mins
DVD & Blu-ray
Reviewed by Guy Adams
This is a movie about reversal of fortunes, both off and on screen. The first major film role of actor, James Fox; the first screenwriting credit of Harold Pinter, masterly author of such ‘comedies of menace’ as The Caretaker and The Birthday Party; Pinter’s first collaboration with Joseph Losey, a director who had been blacklisted in the US due to his being a member of the communist party. It also cemented star, Dirk Bogarde’s metamorphosis from screen idol to heavyweight presence, a process begun in 1961‘s Victim, which featured Bogarde as barrister, blackmailed for being gay (a role arguably close to the star’s heart).
Losey being ostracized from Hollywood was certainly a boon to UK cinema and Losey himself later denied bitterness in a 1983 interview “Without it I would have three Cadillacs, two swimming pools and millions of dollars, and I’d be dead. It was terrifying, it was disgusting, but you can get trapped by money and complacency. A good shaking up never did anyone any harm.” Which is certainly true and just as well as ‘a good shaking up’ is exactly what Losey would give his audiences in The Servant.
The movie creeps, much like it’s titular character, moving quietly on soft-soled shoes, building towards a final third that is remorseless on its viewers. Fox plays Tony, a wet and ineffectual socialite who hires Bogarde’s Barrett to be his manservant. Barrett slowly takes up the reigns of power until their roles are reversed.
Macabre, beautiful and utterly compelling, The Servant is one of our finest films. Winning three BAFTA awards on its release: Best Actor for Bogarde, Most Promising Newcomer for Fox and Best British Cinematography (B/W) for Douglas Slocombe’s sublime visuals. The latter are particularly well-served by this HD re-release on Blu-ray, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the film.
If you’ve seen the film before you know it’s worth the upgrade, (especially given the wealth of special features including new and archive interviews and discussion from Fox, Craig, Miles, Losey and Pinter) if you haven’t then I envy you. The Servant is a flawless and timeless picture. It’s a film that bites, and StudioCanal have ensured their edition does so with the sharpest possible teeth.
Released April 8th
Dreams and Shadows. Book ReviewComments Off
Gollancz, h/b, £14.99
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (Twitter: @mangozoid)
Dreams and Shadows has received a lot of excellent press already, and while I’m usually the first to go ‘against the grain’ should opportunity arise, I have to hold my hands up and say fair play because I loved this too, so much so that I’m already tipping it for a host of awards when the roll call comes round for 2013.
The core story here is one of two young boys and the bonds of friendship that form between them. Although it does last into adulthood, the journey to get there is both black as hell and ‘somewhat haphazard’, and I daresay there are plenty of hints there is more to come.
Ewan is the son of two parents hopelessly in love, but when he is removed from his crib at an early age and replaced by a changeling, his parents are on borrowed time. He is too, but not before he is dragged into a grim and hostile faerie realm the like of which you won’t find at the bottom of any garden — and if Tinkerbell is in there somewhere, she’s probably the head of a brothel that advertises “thoroughly depraved” as the sixpence daily special. C Robert Cargill’s world is not just dark, but thoroughly miserable, blacker than night, and taking no prisoners, at least not unless they’re being groomed for a sacrificial rite or ‘tithe’ in which mortal babies are used to appease the devil every seven years (aka the devil’s tithe). But enough about Ewan…
The other young boy is Colby, and a chance meeting with a djinn (genie) opens his eyes to a world unlike any other, although not before the embittered djinn pleads with him to mind what he wishes for… in this case, it just so happens Colby wishes not only to be able to see faeries, angels, wizards, and all manner of things he’s not supposed to, but also to wield the kind of magic that’s best left to those who understand how it works. Regardless, he becomes a sorcerer, wields incredible power albeit with no control, and from then on things just get a tad weird — or wired — depending on your point of view.
Told in two distinct parts, separated by fourteen years (give or take), and punctuated throughout by ‘excerpts’ from a number of books that explain faerie myth and magic as we read along, I couldn’t help but admire the audacity of the author as he freely rips from any half-decent book on faeries and folklore to bring about this tale. Ironically, I just happened to be researching fairies, angels, etc. for a project of my own when this book fell into my lap, and thus to see the author draw on assorted faerie minutiae, and bring into the mix so many aspects of faerie folklore — everything from the afore-mentioned Devil’s Tithe to the insidious redcaps; the principles of faerie Glamour (wherein faeries can conceal their appearance to deceive mortals); the mermaids and selkies; changelings and gwyllion (the latter are evil mountain faeries, patrons of the goat); dwarves, goblins and the Brown Man of the Muirs; the inspirational but nonetheless tragic life of Leanhaun Shee (here referred to as Leanan Sidhe but nonetheless fulfilling the same role as the infamous Faerie Mistress); and of course, The Wild Hunt in which the devil rides out (on goats no less) to claim lost souls, etc. — all of these are brought to vivid life in a surreal world of fantasy that has you begging to read more.
There are plenty of highlights herein: the backstreet basement bar which is the hangout for fallen angels and drunken faeries alike is well realised and utterly poignant, and we also get to witness the aforementioned Wild Hunt not once but twice — first in the faerie wood (aka the Limestone Kingdom) and later in the modern world careening through downtown Austin, Texas!
All told, there is plenty to recommend here, and despite the hotch-potch of mythological asides and ‘excerpts’ liberally interspersed throughout, the prose does pull you deeper into the narrative, and with a deft hand too, at least until the next violent scene or gory death slams you in the face. In summary, this is a brazen, superlative take on established faerie myth that dares the reader to abandon what they think they already know, opening in turn a horribly grim and dark underworld in which faeries are far from all sweetness and light.
Without Warning. Book ReviewComments Off
Titan Books, p/b, £7.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
Often a popular book will fall into one of three categories. It may have a brilliant idea but falls short in the execution or the main premise may be relatively mundane but the use of it lifts the book out of mediocrity. The third option, a brilliant idea and a superb execution is a very rare beast. One can always hope that the bad idea accompanied by the poor writing never actually reaches the public. Deciding where John Birmingham’s Without Warning comes within this analysis is difficult. This is his ninth book and he has picked up a popular following. The idea that is at the centre of this book, and the two which are to follow, is interesting. One day an effect appears over North America, covering all of the United States and a large part of Canada. Any animal life within the affected area ceases to exist. What this phenomenon is and where it came from is unknown. In fact even Birmingham seems uninterested in finding out – it is merely a plot device. The question he wants to address is, what will happen in the rest of the world if America ceases to exist?
Birmingham decides to follow the trials and tribulations of a handful of disparate characters. James Kipper is city engineer in Seattle which lies just outside the zone. Caitlin Monroe is an agent embedded in a protest organisation in order to get close to a terrorist. Tusk Musso is currently the general inn charge of Guantanamo Bay camp. Bret Melton is a journalist in the Middle East to cover the immanent invasion of Iraq. Pete Holder is the only non-American. He is at sea in his yacht which he uses for smuggling. No-where amongst the lead characters is a scientist trying to find the cause of or reverse the effect. It is almost as if no-one cares about this but instead just want to go round killing people.
That is the biggest objection I have of this novel. It is far too gung-ho militaristic. Birmingham is suggesting that if America was no longer a major player on the world scene the rest of the world would descend into anarchy. While there might be some areas of the world that would be happy that the Americans could no longer apply the same influence, it is unlikely that the situation would become such wholesale chaos. Most of the effects are more likely to be economic with countries consolidating their own resources behind their borders before looking to make strategic movements. At no time are we shown strong leadership whereas this would inevitably happen. Everything kicks off far too soon – within days of the event and even if one of the big players, such as Russia or China were behind it we are more likely to see politics to the fore rather than trigger happy street rioters.
This is intended as an alternative history as the events begin on the eve of the invasion of Iraq – which goes ahead because the army generals don’t have the guts to sit down and negotiate. I find the whole scenario very unbelievable and an excuse for the author to indulge in mass murder. It is a book for those who want to steep themselves in blood.
The idea behind the book is a good one, the execution, unfortunately flawed.