Thursday, 25 April 2013

Book: 2022 by Alison Greaves

As far as the speculative dystopian fiction books I have read go, this is by far the most unsettling. Though Orwell's 1984 was set in a future of the UK where things had gone badly, it still doesn't quite live up to the unsettelingness of 2022. Saying that, unfortunately come the actual year 2022, I believe that this novel will no longer pack the same punch.

The storyline is extremely clever, Natasha was part of a terrorist attack in Newcastle and was in a coma for 10 years. Even though the terrorist attacks are supposed to have happened in what would be the past to us in the present day, this doesn't detract from the power of the novel, or the shock at what England, and mainly the setting Newcastle, has become.

I think the worst thing about the dystopia (and so one of the brilliant things about the book) was that it was all so plausible, the changes weren't too extreme that the world was unrecognisable, for example they still used the pound, still had cars and buses, and even takeaway pizza! But at the same time it clearly isn't the England that we know today. The thing that Greaves did that made the dystopia so believable, was to explain how the changes came about, it started with the change from first past the post, to proportional representation, in parliament, allowing more extremists into power. Greaves also really illustrates the power of the press, even Natasha notes at one point that some of the more outlandish policies were placed in the minds of the public through newspaper articles, and that some articles were used as deterrents for crime.

I thought that the characterisation of the characters was good, the limited cast meant that Greaves had a lot of scope for diving into them, and it was interesting to uncover motives slowly, such as Jason's. The one exception is probably Mark, though most of his page time was mentions by Natasha and not his actual character, thus making it make more sense. The limited third person narrative surprised me, though I think, particularly in light of the conclusion of the book, that it was a good choice. The reader never really knows more than Natasha does, making their shock the same as Natasha's, which in my opinion works two fold; firstly, it allows you to feel there is more of a depth to Natasha, as you yourself are feeling how she is about the changes, having had no pre-warning, and secondly, the changes shock you, it really makes you think how  the changes happened, and the references to Cameron and the coalition just re-enforce that.

Unfortunately it was is not all good news for Greaves, I was sadly disappointed in the ending, though I must admit that I find it difficult to imagine any other ending, particularly as this book is contrary to most dystopias, and is primarily about discovery rather than rebellion. Personally though, I found that the ending robbed some of the punch from the rest of the book, though I guess it could be described as somewhat ambiguous, it was just a bit of a let down. Though throughout the book you will notice that there are hints towards the ending, though I didn't pick up on them until I had read thew whole story.

On the whole I would recommend the book, it was unsettling and chilling, but it was everything that I dystopia should be! Though I think if you know Newcastle well (which I don't, thank goodness), you may find it even more unsettling. Natasha is a good character, and just the idea of someone waking up from a coma into a dystopia, works brilliantly. Overlooking the ending, this is a good book, there is real depth, and most disturbingly of all, it all seems so plausible!