Surveillance – Jonathan Raban

Surveillance

SPOILERS WARNING!

I saw this book in the on-approval section of my library and must admit I was attracted to it by the numerous positive quotes from reviews that adorn both the front, back and inside covers . But after reading the book I did wonder whether I had read the same book, or the copy I had was somehow missing the second half!!?

It starts well enough with the aftermath of a terrorist attack, which after a couple of pages turns out to be an elaborate and expensive civil defence exercise. This is one of the main themes of the book, nothing is exactly what it seems. America is in the grip of paranoia, no one takes anything on trust any more.

The main character is Lucy a journalist attempting to find out if a reclusive author really lived through the wartime events he described in his best-selling book, she and her daughter befriend him and discover his reclusiveness is actually a marketing ploy.

Unknown to Lucy, the new landlord of her building is watching and secretly lusting after her while her friend digs into the past of the landlord to see if he has stolen a dead man’s identity. At her daughter’s school a stereotypical hacker unleashes a virus that causes widespread disruption, his motivation solely to become famous. All the time in the background the State watches it’s citizens and liberty are curtailed by increasing security measures. Everyone spies and everyone is spied on.

300 odd pages in and the characters and paranoid atmosphere have all been developed nicely, but nothing has really happened and just when it starts to get interesting, the author kills the story stone dead with an earthquake!

The ending left me feeling cheated. Nothing is resolved and it just finishes as if the author Jonathan Raban lost interest. The ending is probably meant to be meaningful and arty but I fail to see it. As some other reviewer said “what promised to be a great book, but turned out to be a damp squib.” – I agree!