Review Blog

Jan 11 2018

We see everything by William Sutcliffe

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408895986
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. War. Terrorism. Drones. Using drones to target and kill people who are enemies of the regime is given a sophisticated outing in this menacing dystopian novel by award winning author, William Sutcliffe.
Alan is a failure to his single mother. Disinterested in school he seems to have no drive but gaming is his passion and he is chosen to train for a position within the government secret service, to use drones to watch and kill terrorists. Alan loves the uniform, the money, the prestige but finds his mother is appalled that he has taken such a job.
Meanwhile in The Strip, an area within Central London full of homeless and displaced people, bombed out of their homes, surrounded by no go zones and barbed wire, Lex takes on a courier job for his activist father, taking messages to houses within the ruined city where they live, aware of drones constantly overhead monitoring their every move. People caught in The Strip still manage to live with handouts and aid, some things smuggled in via the tunnels. Lex's ability with gaming gives him an edge with his deliveries, he knows how to avoid detection, to check out the route ahead, to stay safe and so learns his role quickly. He uses money earned selling cigarettes to buy himself a secondhand bike and this gives him some freedom, but Alan watching from above, sees a boy and his relationship with his father helping him restore the bike, a closeness he has never known. He becomes involved with the two that he watches, developing an empathy for them both, the boy only a little younger than he, the father teaching him things possibly meant to help him survive when he is gone.
Set in London, Lex's life is bound by a small section of the inner city, with barbed wire keeping them contained, but it could be anywhere, and astute readers will make the link between other places around the world where people are suffering behind walls, contained in bombed surroundings, often refugees in their own country, tunnels, bombing and barbed wire all part of their everyday lives. And this story shows us that the watched and the watchers are people living out their lives surviving as best they can. But in this case the drones are a formidable piece of armory.
Told in alternate chapters, one from The Strip where Lex delivers his messages, and the other from the control room, where Alan watches, guiding his drone to collect information. But the day is coming when Alan will be asked to use his drone to kill.
The film 'Eye in the sky' (2015) introduced audiences to the power of using drones, and this is shown with more intimacy in this book as Sutcliffe reveals the two boys and what motivates them, their lives coming inexorably closer. A thriller that is sure to engage the most jaded of readers, the links to the gaming world are intoxicating.
Fran Knight

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