A novel set in London at the end of the twenty-first century.
The London of today has been divided into three states.
The Cincture, also known as The Yolk, is the power base where the elite still drive cars, share concerns over availability of designer clothing and the latest surgical enhancements, and have little or no knowledge of the world beyond the copper walls of their domain.
Survurvia, also called The Egg, is a grey, worker-driven, oval shaped area surrounding The Cincture. Survurvians comply to the norm through televised instruction and regular inspections. Individualism is regarded as a danger.
Surrounding the other two states is Londonia, a sprawling and anarchic area populated by thieves, travellers, barterers; fortune tellers, self-proclaimed religious figures and ordinary people getting by and re-learning lost skills of survival.
Hoxton, a young woman with no memory of her past lives in a Londonian church and makes her way through life as a ‘finder’ with her friends and colleagues: Jarvis (finder) Prophet-Jake, The Breadman, Tom (her lover) and others.
After Hoxton is commissioned to find an IKEA cupboard (a now sought-after antique) for a Survurvian woman, she meets Marina, a Russian fortune-teller in the cleansing block of Survurvia. Their brief encounter leaves Hoxton with the knowledge that she has had a child at some point in the earlier part of her life that she cannot remember.
Hoxton later learns that she was at one time living in The Cincture, that her mind was cleared and that she was abandoned in a Hackrovian square with a label bearing what she took to be her name – Hoxton.
After Hoxton enters into a life-altering contract with the Survurvian woman and her husband (the unnerving Dr Sandsbury) she embarks on the ultimate ‘finding’ mission, to discover her unknown son living in The Cincture.
I often have ideas through dreams.
After waking one morning early in 2014, I recalled dream images of an echoing dank church somewhere in East London and a woman wearing a top hat feeding her horse which appeared to be stabled in the transept of the church.
I started writing that day and, as I do, just followed the narrative that was marching ahead of me. Characters appeared; I added smells, sounds and other elements of my imagined cityscapes of 2070 ‘Londonia’, Survurvia and The Cincture.
I am fascinated by ‘where we are going’ and fear that’s it’s not in a good direction . . . however human spirit will prevail, communities will continue in whatever form. I didn’t want to write a truly dystopian novel; yes, to include the gritty, filthy stuff but also to add humour, love and hope – Dyst-hopian fiction, perhaps . . .
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The lead character, Hoxton, has the same sort of strong, instantly believable voice that got me to read The Hunger Games. (Just to be clear, it’s nothing like Hunger Games). The story is credible and the world-building excellent. I’m not a Londoner, but the descriptions spoke of an intimate knowledge of the city, detailed enough to be able to render it ruined after the sort of drastic climatic change that is becoming easy to believe possible and still let the smells of the streets come up to you from the pages.
I would say that the characters seem drawn from life, they are so rounded and true to it, but I doubt there are many professional scavengers, living in old churches in post-apocalyptic London on which to draw decent character sketches, so I’ll have to say that the invention here is extremely good. I believed these people and that they would do the things they did.
It is post-apocalyptic rather than dystopian, but the book that came most readily to mind when reading it was Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Hoxton is a free agent and religion hardly plays a part in the book, but there are issues that anyone attracted to Handmaid’s would find treated here as well. I can’t say which without giving spoilers to the plot.
I’m surprised this is still a self-published book, rather than one that has gone mainstream yet. I saw a sample of it on You Write On some years ago and was interested to see how the whole book turned out, having had my interest caught by the concept and the sheer strength of Hoxton’s voice. It doesn’t disappoint.