An Orwellian dystopia in the guise of a fast-paced thriller, this is a coolly satirical novel laced with humour, suspense and intrigue. Welcome to Brighton, a city ruled by a combination of patronage and armed force. The departments have kept their old names but now Transport imposes order and exacts tolls; Welfare processes the undesirables; Audit collects information about everybody, and Parks and Libraries is supposed to stop the flow of contraband. After years of civil conflict, gated communities separate government workers from the Scoomers cruising the streets in their battered Fiats. But in a secure area four couples from the town's elite keep up a tenuous version of middle class life. They attend each others' dinner parties and drink and gossip. Margaret and Alan think things are getting better; Jack and Denise work long hours and hardly talk to each other; Louise thinks Tim is plotting something, while Siobhan cannot tell her friends the truth about the husband they all think is harmless. Outside, beyond their security gates, the rival Council militias keep an uneasy truce while an underclass forages for survival or waits eagerly for the end of the world.
Meanwhile a faction within the Council is planning to make the changes that will give them absolute power. And then, driving home from a party, Jack and Denise witness a fatal car crash involving one of the Councillors. As the inevitable by-election approaches, they and the people they know are increasingly enmeshed in the town's political manoeuvring and the violence of the streets outside begins to touch even their lives. Through conversations between the characters, leaked tapes of official meetings, transcribed phone calls, fly posters for prayer meetings, and provocative articles in an illegal newspaper, this haunting vision of corruption and surveillance in a city on the brink of chaos is at once deeply unsettling and frighteningly familiar.
Robert Dickinson is the author of two volumes of poetry, Micrographia and Szyzgy (with Andrew Dilger), a comedy drama, Murder's Last Case, and the libretto for Joby Talbot's choral work Path of Miracles. This is his first novel. He lives in Brighton.