Acts of Destruction – Mat Coward
It wasn’t that his own schooldays had left him scarred with awful memories. It was just that his main memory was of spending more than a dozen years being constantly told to stop talking at the back. Talking at the back, of course, was the one thing at school he did really well. He’d have talked at the front if they’d let him, quite happily, he wasn’t fixated on the back. But schools, in his day and in his memory at least, were places where silence was the goal, if not the norm, and Shut up was the answer to almost every question.
Mat Coward has said: “Most people now realise that we’re entering a period of huge change – frightening, exciting, or both, depending on your point of view. But hardly anyone seems to be writing about our near future, except for doom-laden stories of total collapse.”
Mat Coward is, unapologetically, a political writer and one of his main aims with this book was to write something that was neither utopian nor dystopian, but which gives a picture of what society might begin to look like faced with the challenges of the modern world.
He gives us London in the near future. In a world of fuel shortage, food scarcity, and wars over water, the Commonwealth of Britain is struggling to turn necessity into opportunity and build a happier, more efficient, and more democratic nation. It’s a new society, with new rules; even the criminals look different.
I read very few crime novels these days, but I was in no way disappointed with this one. Mainly because the criminal side of the novel seems almost incidental to the main thrust of the story. The picture that emerges of the possible shapes of a post capitalist society is far more urgent and imaginative than the meanderings of the police officers or the turning and twisting of the criminals hoping to avoid detection.
And as such, it is a book which should spark discussion and bring some renewed hope to those who have dreamed of a society which might deal seriously with the nurturing of democracy, some measure of collectivisation of the economy, community life and general questions of poverty and equality.
I know of no other contemporary writer of fiction who is grappling with these urgent questions, and it was gratifying to find ideas of such import and imagination embedded within the covers of what would otherwise be an everyday genre novel.
This is one to read and think about.
The review copy was sent to me by Mat Coward. Thanks, Mat.