Intrusion by Ken MacLeod

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Intrusion by Ken MacLeod

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: March 2012
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1841499390

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Pregnant Hope doesn't want to take the Fix, a genetic cure-all pill that corrects the DNA of an unborn child and protects it from all sorts of diseases. Hope's husband Hugh doesn't really understand her objections to the Fix - in fact, Hope never really articulates them at all - but supports her right to choose.

The couple live in post-climate change London - Hugh is a carpenter working with New Wood and Hope labours from home in a virtual call centre. The Warm War is ongoing, but - beyond a general paranoia about foreign insurgents - it doesn't really affect life that much. Even so, this is quite a scary future. Hope and Hugh's world is increasingly surveiled. Pregnant women must wear a monitor ring which ensures they don't drink alcohol or come into contact with cigarette smoke. It's for their own good. As is the Fix. The ruling Labour party, in a tooth-grinding reminder of Tony Blair's Third Way, acts to create the free market that it thinks would exist if all participants were a) rational and b) had perfect knowledge. As Hope's MP says, the state... steps in to allow people to make the choices they would have made if they'd had that information.

But of course, the state system has much more in common with computer says no than with strong AI and Hope's refusal to take the Fix results in all sorts of pressure and problems for her and Hugh.

So far, so speculative novel good and Intrusion is very much like Macleod's earlier novel, The Execution Channel, in that it reads like a thriller. As the plot progresses, so does the SF side of things involving tachyons and good genetic mutations, but I don't want to say too much about those because I'm not clever enough to do it without giving everything away.

I love Ken Macleod's novels. They read very easily but are deceptively dense, full of digs and satirical throwaways. And for me, Instrusion was particularly enjoyable because it's set in the areas of West London - Southall, Hayes, West Drayton - in which I grew up. It's all so close to the bone it's almost painful. Benign authoritarianism is still authoritarianism and Intrusion is a rather frightening vision of the road we are taking with our smoking bans and our obesity epidemics and our CCTVs. Particularly if you're a woman.

For something similar but different, you could try All That Follows by Jim Crace.

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Buy Intrusion by Ken MacLeod at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Intrusion by Ken MacLeod at


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