Saturday, May 24, 2008


I enjoyed some aspects of the book, including the manner in which 'surveillance' is handled. I'd have thought, given the title, that Raban's book would have focused on state snooping into the lives of private citizens. Most of the government intrusion occurs in the background, however, with subtle hints of growing police oppression and intrusion into everday life. This is refreshingly "real," and reflects our current descent into soft fascism. The book shows how regular citizens increasingly watch each other and use technology (Google) and subterfuge to check each other out. We all are guilty of surveillance. Of course many of Raban's characters are liars and cheats, and since everybody is guilty constant surveillance is what people deserve. Or something.

Most of the characters are simply drawn caricatures created simply to get their political views in the text: the paranoid liberal conspiracy theorist, the freedom-loving right-wing academic who hates Islam, the lefty who tolerates the erosion of civil liberties for security, etc. There is some fine writing, and an alarming passage or two, but I was most dis-satisfied by the novel's peculiar ending.

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