Moving from Teens to Adult fiction ? Looking for a novel that has a hint of Dystopian and also a mystery aspect ?
Check out Helen Smith's latest book "The Miracle Inspector" with a review to come at a later date. Author Helen Smith has also provided us with a list of her Top Dystopian Novels as a Guest Post and a number of them listed are my favourites too especially my all-time favourite "The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood.
Synopsis: The Miracle Inspector - Helen Smith - September 2012
The Miracle Inspector is a dystopian thriller set in the near future. England has been
partitioned and London is an oppressive place where poetry has been forced
underground, theatres and schools are shut, and women are not allowed to work
outside the home. A young couple, Lucas and Angela, try to escape from London –
with disastrous consequences.
“…this is an absolutely exceptional piece of fiction, a
work of art befitting the best in socially-conscious literature.”
Journal of Always Reviews
“…Only occasionally does a piece of fiction leap out and
demand immediate cult status. Alison Wonderland is one.”
– The Times
“…Smith is gin-and-tonic funny.”
“Smith has a keen eye for material details, but her prose
is lucid and uncluttered by heavy description. Imagine a satire on Cool
Britannia made by the Coen Brothers.”
Dystopian books offer a bleak, disturbing
vision of the future. Often in the story there is a totalitarian government
that controls and deceives its citizens, and rebellion is dangerous or futile.
There may be a threat to the survival of the population, perhaps because of
declining fertility or environmental problems. The endings of such novels are
often downbeat or ambiguous. They hold a mirror to the way we live now, and an
implicit or explicit warning about what may happen if we don’t preserve our
freedom and individuality.
P.D. James’s novel, The Children of Men, is
set in England in 2021, when infertility problems among the population mean
that no child has been born for twenty-five years. England is ruled by a despot
called Xan with a private army. As the population is dwindling, foreign workers
are brought into the country and exploited. Older people are a burden on
society and commit suicide, and childless couples find child substitutes to
love, such as pets or dolls. The story is told partly through the diary of a
man called Theo who discovers that a woman called Julian is pregnant. If she
has a baby, there is hope for the population – so long as the baby doesn’t fall
into Xan’s power. The Children of Men was published in 1992
and made into a film starring Clive Owen in 2006.
Margaret Atwood’s bleak novel is set the
Republic of Gilead which is ruled by men in a right-wing totalitarian
theocracy.Women have been stripped of
their rights and we follow the story of Offred, a woman who is ‘handmaid’ to a
man called Fred and his wife, forced to have sex with him in order to conceive
a child for the couple. She must give birth to a healthy child, ‘a Keeper’, but
this is almost impossible given that so many children are born with birth
defects, and because Fred is probably infertile. There is a resistance movement
and the possibility of a way out for Offred – but can she trust the people who
say they want to help her? A Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985 and
made into a film in 1990 starring Natasha Richardson as Offred.
George Orwell’s book is set in Oceania, a
republic ruled by Big Brother. Surveillance, censorship and ‘doublethink’
prevail. Torture is used to break down resistance among citizens. Political
language – what we might now called ‘spin’ – is important as a way of
controlling the population’s understanding of their situation. Winston Smith
works for the Ministry of Truth and though at first he loves Big Brother, he
rebels, begins an illicit romance with a woman called Julia, is captured and
tortured, and betrays his lover. Though he has been approached by someone who
claims to be a member of the resistance, it seems that even this may not exist
except to flush out rebellious citizens so they can be reeducated. On reading
or rereading this book, you see that many of Orwell’s invented terms have
become part of the lexicon, especially when discussing political ideas.Nineteen Eight-Four was published in 1949.
In 1984 it was made into a film starring John Hurt as Winston Smith. (On a side
note, Suzanna Hamilton, who played Julia in the film, appeared in a play of
mine called The Memory Man that was produced in London in 2011.)
Aldous Huxley’s book is set in London in
2450. A peaceful World State rules the citizens of the world, dividing them into
castes and educating them to work and behave in pre-defined ways suitable to
those castes. There are no families, and children are incubated and hatched
rather than being conceived naturally. People seem happy but this is because
they’re medicated by Soma, a drug that takes away their creativity and
individuality and stops them questioning their existence. An outcaste or
‘savage’, John, who was conceived naturally by a woman called Linda who exiled
herself in shame, is brought to London at the age of eighteen to see this
‘brave new world’ for himself. He is intrigued and horrified by it, and,
mourning his mother, he becomes a spectacle for the citizens of London who are
excited by his passionate feelings.Brave New World was published in 1932. It
was made into a TV film starring Leonard Nimoy in 1998.
Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro’s book is set in England. It
begins in a boarding school where three characters, Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, are
friends. The story is told from the point of view of Kathy, using her slightly
limited vocabulary and outlook – she’s quite a passive character. As adults,
they are housed in cottages, and Kathy becomes a ‘carer’. It’s difficult to
describe what happens in the book without giving away an important ‘reveal’
that will spoil the opening chapters of the book if you know what will happen while reading them. But this is a haunting, sad book, that
came together for me when I read the last page, which made me cry.
Never Let Me Go was published in 2005 and
made into a film in 2010 starring Carey Mulligan as Kathy.
About the Author:
Helen Smith is a
member of the Writers Guild of Great Britain and English PEN. She traveled the
world when her daughter was small, doing all sorts of strange jobs to support
them both – from cleaning motels to working as a magician’s assistant – before
returning to live in London where she wrote her first novel which was published
by Gollancz (part of the Hachette Group).
She is the author of bestselling cult novel Alison
Wonderland. She writes novels, poetry, plays and screenplays and is the
recipient of an Arts Council of England Award. She’s a long-term supporter of
the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture and mentors members of an
exiled writers group to help them tell their stories.
Her latest book is the dystopian thriller The