Review Blog

Sep 03 2019

State of fear by Tim Ayliffe

cover image

Simon and Schuster, 2019. ISBN: 9781925640946. 387p; p/b.
(Age: Adult) Journalist John Bailey gets caught up in a plot by a terrorist cell with bad history. Bailey's characterisation is strong, but by way of being blunt, rather than natural. A noticeable amount of it comes from irrelevant asides which exist just to show off some sympathetic trait like being angry at vague injustice. Other characters are much worse off, either being defined by their relationship to Bailey or a thin stereotype that serves their role in the plot. The plot is action-driven, fairly standard thriller fare of an everyman thrust into a dramatic situation with high stakes. The novel's intended theme seems to be the futility of revenge. However, it doesn't address this very well because it doesn't come up until quite late in the plot, close to the climax. The message, intended or otherwise, that pervades most of the book is - you can't trust your Muslim neighbours, because you never know when they're part of an extremist terrorist group! The novel does have small snippets condemning reactionary Islamophobia, but it falls flat when the actual plot confirms and plays into these fears. The setting is rather explicit but nothing special, simply modern-day Sydney and London. The main character's constant raging against social media taking over the news could easily date the novel in years to come, however. There's nothing particularly memorable that stands out in the novel's style.
Vincent Hermann

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