It can be hard for us living in relatively comfortable places like Britain to really relate to and understand people living in war torn African countries where normal society has broken down, the land is split into various factions fighting for control with continuously shifting territories and bands of marauding men are wandering the countryside raping and pillaging as they go leaving countless refugees displaced from their homes with no where to go.
So how better to bring this home to people than to literally bring it home
in the form of science fiction? Priest envisages the collapse of British society caused by an extremist right wing government's bad handling of a massive influx of African refugees fleeing a nuclear holocaust in their homelands. The country collapses into civil war between the nationalists who want to drive the African illegal immigrants away and those who sympathise with their plight and want to accommodate them. Foreign powers wage war with each other by proxy by supplying one side or the other with weapons, America tries to police the situation and the UN tries to intervene on humanitarian grounds. Chaos and confusion reign.
This is a bleak story, from beginning to end, which parallels the turmoil of the protagonist's external environment with his inner, emotional turmoil caused by breakdown of his marriage. The narrative is highly fragmented, nipping back and forwards in time and so we are gradually able to build up a picture of how the situation unfolded and an insight into the man himself. He is not a particularly likeable character and is both emotionally disconnected from his family and the wider conflict, always feeling like an observer, an outsider looking on.
This is one of Priest's earlier works and quite different from anything else I have read by him. An intriguing, powerful and hard hitting story that is certainly not for the feint hearted.