Saturday 23 July 2011

Bloody War by Terry Grimwood

Peter Allman recovers after an illness to discover that he has lost all memory of the previous eighteen months, and that Britain has changed dramatically in that period. The country is now at war with unspecified Enemies of Democracy, who are systematically bombing cities. Civil liberties including freedom of speech and travel have been drastically curtailed, the news media are tightly controlled, the internet has been switched off, and the police are supplemented by the sinister SSU. All teenagers are conscripted on their eighteenth birthdays - a date his son is due to reach shortly.

Allman is angered and baffled by all of this, but his attempts to find out exactly what is going on are met by a wall of silence, prompted by fear. Those who speak out of turn are liable to disappear, never to be heard of again. He contacts a former friend, a wounded Veteran of the fighting, and is given some hints that the situation is not as portrayed. His struggles against authority and efforts to escape from a walled-in London to a promised safe haven form the plot of the novel.

The plot summary on the book's cover draws comparisons with Orwell's 1984 and there are certainly some echoes of this, although Bloody War is much more action-focused and brutal. As a worst-case warning of how trends in society might develop it is less convincing because of the plot structure. The author has set the story in the present day, which is a good way to enable the reader to relate easily to what is happening, but the changes in society he portrays are so sudden and extreme as to stretch the credulity of this reviewer much too far. Orwell avoided this problem by setting his novel thirty-six years into his future. On a point of detail, the closing scene didn't work for me as I found it incompatible with the first-person viewpoint.

Despite these criticisms the book makes compelling, if very grim, reading - I read the last three-quarters in one session.

Bloody War was published in 2011 by the Eibonvale Press

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