ACTS OF DESTRUCTION, by Mat Coward
Alia Mondo Press, 2009, pp264, £10.00, ISBN: 9780955868610 Reviewed by L. J. Hurst
No matter how bad things may be, it seems easier to imagine them getting worse rather than better, which means that Mat Coward’s ACTS OF DESTRUCTION, set in the near future, is a very rare work. Probably inspired by tales of how Cuba has sustained itself despite the US blockade, Coward’s novel, written in the style of a police procedural, takes as its given the conversion of Britain into a new commonwealth, dedicated to equality and sustainability, where all large businesses have become co-operatives, petrol-driven vehicles are infrequent and homes have converted their driveways and car-ports into small allotments.
Times of change are never easy, and although there seems to have been no major destruction in the conversion of Britain (unlike, say, the destruction wrought in the English Civil War of the seventeenth century, or that of the Russian Revolution), there are still things to be aware of, including threats from the now fundamentalist USA, which sends kidnappers to save children for the Lord. Closer to home, where the police once sought car twockers they now seek bicycle thieves, and every factory needs a night-watchman to look after the small-holdings on the former car-parks and factory roofs, as the produce intended to be part of the workers pay is also a temptation to thieves. For thieves have not gone away.
An earlier group of idealists, those
Mat Coward had one template to work
by, William Morris’s NEWS FROM NOWHERE (1890/91), which was not the first
Utopia, but was one of the most complete, set in west
Set somewhere between John Creasey’s Gideon stories and the Bryant and May tales currently being published by Christopher Fowler, ACTS OF DESTRUCTION grew out of a one-off short story, “Back to the Land” (2002). Mat Coward has said that it is not meant to be a manifesto – I would hope so, too, given the goody-goody hypocrisy of some of the characters – but that is no reason why it should not be first of a series that explores such a brave new world.
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© L J Hurst 2010