Fox by Anthony Gardner

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Fox by Anthony Gardner

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Near future speculative thriller combining virus panic with mass surveillance and the rise of China. Plot-focused and with a massive cast, it has twists and turns to suit every thriller fan. And it's serious in its depiction of the downtrodden individual against the erosion of hard-won civil liberties. Anthony Gardner popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: January 2016
Publisher: Ardleevan Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0993368042

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Ok. When reviewing a thriller, you have a dilemma. Because the plot is the point, you see. You don't want to give too much away because it's not just the denouement that's a spoiler; it's the whole thing. But you do have to give potential readers a decent idea of what they'll be getting. So here is my stab at interesting you while still keeping you guessing about Fox.

In a near future Britain, there is collective panic about the newest contagion - the fox flu is deadly and is spreading fast. The ban on hunting has been rescinded and it's not unusual to see red-coated hunters in the streets of all the major cities. Frank is the face of urban fox hunting in London, as he canters the streets at dawn and TV loves him. Frank is keen on hunting but much less keen on TV.

Everyone knows that Something Must Be Done and so the population is keen to get its vaccinations against the dreaded fox flu. And this is where the British PM sees an opportunity. He wants to extend mass surveillance in the Chinese model. The Chinese have injected their entire population with nano-cameras and the PM wants their technology so that it can be delivered to Britons along with the purported fox flu vaccinations. In return, the Chinese want British help eliminating the Brothers of Light, a dissident Anglican network.

As all the shady Anglo-Sino shenanigans begin, various characters become embroiled: Christophe and Amy try to escape China while in possession of a prototype nano-camera delivery syringe; animal rights activists Matt and Jake are sprung from prison, Lu does his best to run the Pu Dong Pudding Company in as British a way as possible, Jonty and Fay do assassin-type things and Jennifer Pettifer provides some truly British petty bureaucracy.

Mostly, it's about the syringe! I hope this will do you!

Fox is nicely written. It reads like any good-hearted, enthusiastic conspiracy thriller and it drops as many twists and turns and narrow escapes as any fan of the genre could wish for. It has a massive cast, which includes a good mix of the accidentally heroic, the actually heroic, the dastardly and the plain eccentric. My personal favourite was the beautifully-named Jennifer Pettifer, whose admiration for the horrible Prime Minister was entirely misplaced and profoundly disturbing, yet hilarious.

But underneath the derring-do there are some real points made about the powerlessness of the individual in the face of technological advances and increasing mass surveillance, and also about the tension between mass panic and the possibility of an incurable virus decimating the human population. Gardner doesn't really give us any answers - are there any answers? - but he does give us a lot to think about.

Near future speculative Fox might be, but I do think we need to include a shout out for the old school production values of this book. They're gorgeous. The cover is rich red cloth. The chapters have delightful header and footer illustrations. The paper is high quality. It smells good. And while there is much to be said for e-readers, there's even more to be said for the reading experience gained from a beautiful production like this. I'm not an angry old Luddite shaking her fist at the sky. I'm not. Reading is better when the physical book is gorgeous and Fox is gorgeous. And I don't know about you, but it makes a difference to me.

If you enjoy a speculative thriller and are downcast by the erosion of civil liberties in the form of technological surveillance, you'll enjoy Fox.

If you enjoy a good speculative thriller, you might also enjoy Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod.

You can read more about Anthony Gardner here

Bookinterviews.jpg Anthony Gardner was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

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