May 6, 2008

twentytwelve by Andrew Keogh

twentytwelve

Let me go ahead and admit that I was worried this book would be terrible. Not because of anything related to the book itself, but because the author reads my blog and comments regularly. I figured it was unlikely to suck completely, because his own blog is well written and entertaining, but the fear lingered. Luckily, that turned out to be mostly unfounded.

As you can guess by the title, twentytwelve concerns the near future, a nightmare of a fascist England where leaders openly praise Hitler and anyone nonwhite or Jewish is hunted down and exterminated. The hero, his mom, his half-black daughter, and various others scratch their way across Wales in an attempt to make it into Ireland, land of the (fairly) free. They dodge brutal cops of various sorts, fall in and out of captivity, and so what they can to stay alive and together. An altogether worth it story.

My main criticism comes down to style. I could see in the writing that Keogh is a lawyer by trade. He doesn't fuck around with a bunch of flowery descriptions - the narrative is done in a very "just the facts" style. On the one hand, it keeps the adventure clipping along. On the other, I feel like we miss out on some characterization and motives. All the good guys are resolute, willing, and quiet in their suffering. Maybe it's that "stiff upper lip" Britishism coming out.

The text could also have benefited from a good going over for small flaws, the kind of thing an author can't see after rewriting a novel too many times. A few too many cases of Keogh using the same word over and over in a paragraph kept sort of bumping me out of the story. With this kind of tale to tell - worth reading both as a caution and as simply a "what will they do next?" adventure - a good editor could have made all the difference.

final thought: I suggest this one. Read it now before the government bans it.

11 comments:

white rabbit said...

Hank - you were afraid you'd think that 'twentytwelve' would suck? Not as much as I did! Thanks for kind words and a brief to response to criticism. an agent read 'twentytwelve' when I was trying to sell it and said she didn't like the minimalist style. I didn't know I wrote minimalist! I'm now completing a crime novel and have a quality line editor. she has an interesting 'visualisation' technique. She imagines the scenes in the novel and pursues me for points of detail. I agree without this kind of nudge the writing would be very sparse as to detail. Did you pick up, for example, that Charlie's mother (deliberately) has no name? I also agree about how better editing would have helped iron out minor stuff. I am consoled by finding obvious editing failures in bestselling novels by major authors! I tut as well! And yes, when you get a word in your head it can be all over the text like a rash if you're not careful! I rewrote a lot out but obviously some remained for your eagle eye to spot.

downtown guy said...

I think your style will be well suited to a crime novel. Sort of a hard boiled, true facts approach. I'll be looking forward to reading it.

I did pick up on the mom being sort of generic "Mom" of all. Was there some meaning behind Billy's name? You know what I would have been interested to have seen included? Some comment by an older Englishman regarding the fact that the nazis kicked so much hell out of the UK back in the '40s - I'd think that, even in the fascist state, there would be serious grumblings about that from even fairly nationalistic Brits. But that's just something I thought of while I was reading.

Think you'll write a follow-up someday? I'd be curious to see how Jill and James both fare.

white rabbit said...

Hank - interesting points! You are right - part of the reason charlie's mother has no name is that she is a generic suffering mother. I got the name of Billy from an old Jamaican dope dealer I defended (with remarkable success) a few years ago. Another character based on him is a minor character in crime novel. Natalie's name comes from my younger son. I asked 'give me a girl's name'. He said 'Natalie' - his then girlfriend. No other name has any particular significance except that by remarkable coincidence, a fascist policeman's dog has the same name as someone I can't stand. Childish, I know...
The Nazi thing - an American would be unlikely to pick up on this but there is a party here called the British National Party (BNP). A few years ago you knew they were a neo-nazi party because they said so. then they worked out Hitler, gas chambers etc were box office poison and went through a rebranding exercise and present themselves as decent patriotic types who aren't racist any more. I don't buy it. They are still nazi scum, albeit with PR skills -and now a seat on the Greater London Assembly. If they got power, I've no doubt the mask would drop as it does in twentytwelve with the Patriotoc Alliance. That's the warning - it's a British thing. I have an idea of a sequel to twentytwelve (working title - twentytwenty - redemption song), the fascist regime is crumbling and the underlying theme is how revolutions are corruppted. I've written a bit - dear little Natalie is now a dreadlocked, sweary, chainsmoking teenager who thinks her father is an idiot and wants to join the revolution. I've written a little of the sequel but crime novel first!

downtown guy said...

Actually, I have a fair understanding of the BNP - comes from being an antiracist skinhead. Even here in the states, those of us in the scene know the history. But, exactly as you say, the actual trappings of nazism - Hitler, the swastika - are not well received in England, even if the racism they are associated with gets a pass. Am I wrong in thinking that even someone who would support something like the Patriotic Alliance might grumble about actually slapping the swazi in the middle of the Union Jack? And, now that I think about it, would the Jack still be in use in a time when Ireland (and Scotland?) are completely separate nations, or would it be the St. George flag?

That's funny about the dog - I've done things like that in my own writing. The continuing character of Natalie sounds well worth writing.

Did you read The Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler?

Kylie said...

I was also worried for AK about what you were going to think of his book :) I'm glad you liked it. I dabble a little in editing so you ever need a person on the other side of the world, I'm your gal!

Being a cricket fan, I of course love 'twentytwenty' for a title.

The BNP sounds quite frightening. It's unfathomable that there are still neo-Nazis around the place.

downtown guy said...

Well, if you combine a good amount of hate-for-the-other, it's-not-my-fault-my-life-sucks, and symbols to rally under, you've got a movement that will last for a long, long time. It's one of the sicker parts of human nature.

white rabbit said...

Kylie - that's very kind but I'd have to send it to you electronically and I supect you would go boss-eyed reading about 450 page on screen (unless you have an employer's printer to abuse ;) ).

The novel's most severe critic was my 82 year old aunt who poked her nose in it, announced 'bad language' and withdrew nose..

bkrangel said...

white rabbit...you should let Hank edit you next book. Or atleast give it a quick read!

downtown guy said...

Heck, I'd love to have a look at it.

Kylie said...

Yeah, get Hank to do it. I'm withdrawing my offer because I just noticed a glaring omission from my earlier post. I'm not worthy :(

downtown guy said...

Pft. Perfect editing is a myth anyway.