I should have known when I saw the
"Long-listed for Man Booker Prize 2014" tag on the cover, that I wouldnt
get far with this novel. And I didnt. A combination of ennui and distaste for the
lacklustre characters, together with a sense of "this is going nowhere in
particular" caused me to give up by page fifty. It reminded me unpleasantly of the
sort of book they made you read in English class, back in the 1970s. And not 1984
or Brave New World either (to which J
is inaccurately compared on the back cover). Those works had setting and plot. They went
somewhere. Here you have an intriguing futuristic setting: "What happened, if it
happened" lies somewhere in a past hidden behind a wall of unofficial censorship. But
theres no real development of that idea I can see, flicking through unread pages.
Theres much better dystopian fiction out there, but because its genre fiction
and popular, it isnt literature and it wont win the prizes or the accolades.
Which just shows how much those prizes are worth a label to tell me and many others
which books not to read.