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by Paul Johnston
Hodder & Stoughton, February 2003
434 pages
ISBN: 0340717068

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Paul Johnston's dystopian view of a Scotland in 2026 takes us from the totalitarian state of Edinburgh to the democratic state of Glasgow. Edinbrugh is beset by juvenile crime. Everything, including electricity is rationed for the citizens so that the tourists, which are Edinburgh's major industry, can have a good time. But the tourist trade is dwindling due to the increased crime.

When a guardsman is killed in a particularly gruesome manner, the Public Order Guardian calls in ex-guardsman Quintillian Dalrymple to try and find the answer. Although the birth rate has fallen drastically, the Public Health Guardian is very pregnant and no one knows who the father is. Quint's sometime lover, Katherine, suspects Quint.

Things happen with great rapidity in this novel. Another citizen of Edinburgh is murdered in the same way. Quint's father, one of the original Guardians of the City, has a heart attack, and Quint begins to question even more the wisdom of the State, since there is really no decent medical care available in Edinburgh. All efforts go twoard making the tourists happy and keeping the citizenry poverty stricken.

There's another murder, and some genetic engineering files are stolen from the state archives which have been sealed for at least 20 years, ever since the breakdown of the world's governments and the fragmentation of countries into city-states. The UK disintegrated after it was found that a member of the royal family had been dealing drugs; the US broke up becuase of a civil war caused by religious fundamentalists.

Quint is kidnapped and taken to Glasgow, the democratic cty-state he had been tuaght to fear. He finds that life there isn't so bad...there are orivate automobiles, good quality clothing, unlimited baths, good food and whisky, none of which is available in his home state.

It's amazing how fresh Johnston keeps this series. Just when you think that there is nothing else to say about a fascistic dictatorship, he finds a way to make his point in a different way. Do yourself a favor and read this series. Start with BODY POLITIC and go on from there. This is the 4th in the series.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, March 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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