A State of Fear: Britain After a Dirty Bomb by Joseph Clyde
|A State of Fear: Britain After a Dirty Bomb by Joseph Clyde|
|Reviewer: Margaret Young|
|Summary: Fear is the greatest weapon in this thriller that looks at the after-effects of a dirty bomb on Britain.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: May 2013|
|Publisher: Gibson Square Books Ltd|
A dirty bomb has gone off in the centre of London. Julie's first thought is to reach her daughter, waiting to be collected from school within the danger zone, but when this becomes impossible she must take refuge indoors and await rescue. Forcing her way into a beauty salon she finds herself among a disparate group of strangers, some of whom will soon find their lives interwoven with hers. Also sheltering in the salon are the Russian beauty-salon owner/madam, Mrs Marchusak, Anya, a beautician/call girl and her Chechen client, Safia, a devout Muslim (who rather strangely is in very skimpy western clothing) a Frenchman and an American gentleman. They are soon joined by Kingman, a young male of black Caribbean descent. It seems to be a regular United Nations in the salon. As a Doctor, Julie maintains her calm and does her best to help, and the American remains a gentleman, displaying a touching act of nobility at one point, but tensions flare in the cramped quarters, especially after Kingman begins to show signs of radiation poisoning. After the event, many of these characters will find their paths crossing again. The other main characters are Julie's estranged husband Martin, a journalist, Tony an obscure MI-5 agent and finally a pair of terrorists connected to the first attack and planning a second dirty bomb, Amer and Jayson.
The book conveys the panic and social unrest that would accompany such an attack very well. With large sections of London contaminated, the government is forced to put vast numbers of people into emergency accommodation, taking over a holiday park for many refugees. In the cramped quarters, racial tensions and past gang rivalries boil over. White supremacists groups react as well, viewing all Moslems as the enemy. The attack is not claimed, but the discovery of the dead bombers and the fact that they are of Asian descent seems to clinch it. The book is fairly fast-moving, perhaps too fast at times as it jumps from character to character and the flow of time never seems quite right. There are some aspects that I found unrealistic, but I've never minded overlooking a few unrealistic sections in a good action-based narrative.
Where I did have a problem with the book was the character development. I never felt as though I knew any of the characters enough to understand exactly what made them tick, nor did I find any character I particularly liked, which makes it difficult for me to fully immerse myself in a book. I also found the plot twists very predictable. Nothing caught me by surprise in this book, which I find disappointing in a thriller. But despite its flaws, I did still enjoy the book. The plausibility of a dirty bomb is sadly very real, and this does really make you think about the possible outcome of such an attack. Whatever the number of deaths, fear would be the greatest enemy in such a situation and maintaining order would be difficult. If you read a book for the action alone, this very well might be something you really enjoy. If you prefer a book out the relationships between the characters involved though, their feelings and motivations, you might be disappointed. If you read a thriller hoping to be surprised at the outcome, or at least one that keeps you guessing, this might well come up short.
One thing I did appreciate about the book is that it does not go into any technical detail on the device itself. I am aware such information is readily available online, but I don't feel that it needs to be repeated. I also liked the fact that while I found some of the author's ideas about Islam unlikely - he did not attempt to portray all Moslems as the enemy, and he did show how many of them suffered as well. Finally, while I was not happy with his character development overall, the characters he did best with were the terrorists. He did not glorify them in anyway, which would have completely put me off, but rather than portray them as pure evil, he paints them as very damaged individuals, one of whom is mentally disabled and easily led.
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