Jo Fletcher Books: 3/11/2014
Hardcover, 352 pages
My Thoughts:Peter Liney honed his strong narrative skills and attention to detail during his long career as a writer of German, Australian, British, and South African television and radio programs. In his debut novel, The Detainee, Liney has created a dystopian world in which the state has gone bust and can no longer support its weakest members.The Island is a place of hopelessness. The Island is death. And it is to this place that all the elderly and infirm are shipped, the scapegoats for the collapse of society. There’s no escape, not from the punishment satellites that deliver instant judgment for any crime—including escape attempts—and not from the demons that come on foggy nights, when the satellites are all but blind. But when one of the Island’s inhabitants, the aging "Big Guy" Clancy, finds a network of tunnels beneath the waste, there is suddenly hope—for love, for escape, and for the chance to fight back.
The Detainee by Peter Liney is a highly recommended dystopian thriller.
Before he was sent to the island Clancy, also known as "Big Guy," worked as a heavy for Mr. Meltoni. Now he is old, 63, and an Island Detainee. The Island is really just a huge garbage pile four miles long, three across and a little over a mile offshore. At one time it was a residential island, but at some point someone decided it was the ideal place to start offloading the Mainland’s waste. It is also where the old and have no means of support are sent are sent to have one last chance to become self-sufficient. What those who make all the rules while living behind their fortified walls on the mainland are saying is survive or die.
"But there are thousands of us out here. Mostly old people, those with no money, who once might’ve thought they’d be taken care of. However, no one takes care of you anymore. You either survive or die, simple as that. Sure as hell the State don’t. They can’t afford to look after anyone. And do you know who they say’s to blame? Not incompetent and corrupt politicians, not those pigs gorging themselves down at the stock exchange trough, but us. Old people. Old people ’cuz we got too old. As if we had a choice."
He and the other old folks have built a village where their shelters are made of plastic and whatever discarded items they can find. The satellite policing keeps them on the island. It is a laser that doles out punishment based on the crime. The roots of its development were surveillance cameras. Now the laser keeps them on the island and punishes anyone with anything that might resemble a weapon.
Surviving on the garbage pile isn't what Clancy is concerned about. He and every other old person on the island is scared of the fog because when the fog rolls in the satellite policing, can't work. And when the satellites can't work the kids come out. These kids are the drugged up garbage urchins who sort the trash for the Wastelords. They come out with machetes in a drug frenzy on foggy nights and go crazy killing and maiming, hacking old people to death without mercy or conscience.
One night, while trying to escape a murderous gang of kids, Clancy discovers a secret that might just provide him with the safety and hope he needs to survive and perhaps be the impetus for something even bigger.
I will readily admit that at first I wasn't sold on Clancy as the narrator of The Detainee. I though his sometimes meandering, self-pitying lack of confidence would begin to irritate me; actually the opposite happened. I warmed up to him and accepted all of his self-esteem issues. Once the larger issues in this society became more clear the story took over.
Currently all the spying on everyone via surveillance cameras (or the internet) the idea of punishment satellites doesn't seem so far-fetched. And with parents becoming more permissive, the eventual collapse of a society where out-of-control children were paid to be good could quickly turn into a society that blames the old people for everything - especially when the financial structure collapses due to the aging population. It is a horrifying but logical next step to eliminate the older and weaker members of a society in order to protect the greater good of the ruling class. Once that ideological/societal hurdle was crossed, it was much easier to get caught up in the characters and the action.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes.