A terrifying look into a fictional tomorrow

Lie of the Land, the debut novel from Michael F Russell, is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian Scotland in the not-so-distant future.

An authoritarian government is in place, with all that entails. Internet development has increased to such an extent as to allow the powers that be to be able to control minds – the state is watching and controlling absolutely everything.

All this surveillance is for folks’ own good, naturally, following an eco disaster.

Investigative journalist Carl Shewan is less than impressed and is on his way to follow up a tip off about the government’s new surveillance system SCOPE.

Heading to meet his contact, he begins to feel increasingly suspicious. As he draws closer to his destination, unknown to him, the government has activated its mindcontrolling system. Disastrous results see the population falling into a deep sleep they never wake from. Taking a detour, Shewan ends up in a small remote Scottish village, Inverlair, and escapes.

Upon his arrival in an area with particularly poor mobile phone reception, Shewan discovers an alternative, secluded community that has gone unnoticed by the government’s surveillance systems – which rely on electromagnetic waves – and has escaped the devastation that has struck elsewhere.

The tight-knit community appears to be one of the very few locations that has been unaffected by the deadly delta waves and the disaffected journalist’s only choice is to stay if he wishes to stay alive.

Straying too far from the safety of the village puts you at risk from the devastating waves and will lead to death.

Feeling trapped and claustrophobic, and choked with feelings of guilt, Shewan has to deal with the persistent thoughts that perhaps he could have done more to prevent what has happened.

Getting a local girl pregnant means he also has to deal with impending fatherhood, as well as the increasing sense of claustrophobia as resources dwindle and the realisation of how small his world has become takes hold.

How does a community cope, cut off from the outside world? The characters are interesting and we get a good insight into how they function, while the vivid descriptions of both the picturesque scenery and the weather add to the reader’s understanding of the small village life that has become Shewan’s new world, and increases the understanding of the novel as a whole.

Examining the claustrophobia of small-town life and alienation, as well as raising issues about state control of society, this novel can be bleak reading at times, although the subject matter is intriguing, and you are left wondering, ‘What next?’

Lie of the Land, by Michael F Russell, published Polygon, £8.99

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