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Intrusion by Ken MacLeod

A review by Nalini Haynes

Hope and Hugh Morrison are expecting their second child. This is the second time Hope has refused ‘the fix’, a magic bullet that cures all genetic abnormalities while immunising the foetus against many childhood illnesses.

In this Brave New World overtly referencing 1984, a father sued his wife forcing her to take the fix because his wife had no acceptable justification for a conscientious objection. This precedent allows social services to pressure women –possibly force women – to take the fix unless they have a religious justification for refusal.

Hope posts her concerns to a parenting forum. The next day when Hope arrives at nursery school to drop her son Nick off, Hope is blocked by angry parents. These are parents of ‘faith kids’, other children whose mothers have not taken the fix, but they are angry that Hope would put their children at risk of infection.

The hypocrisy would be unbelievable if I hadn’t seen this kind of outrageous judgementalism in real life:

  • ‘You’re not really disabled because you can pass for normal’
  • ‘You’re not really bisexual because you have a partner of the opposite gender’
  • ‘You’re not really a lesbian because you’re a transsexual (formerly a man)’ 

And so on. My studies have been enlightening [ironic tone].

Intrusion explores potential development of current social dynamics. Everything from the pointlessness of some academic research to racial profiling; from police state victimisation to wilful ignorance or collusion leading to impending disaster.

My only criticism of Intrusion is MacLeod’s attempt to justify second sight – usually a feature of fantasy – by introducing tachyons. Human perception of tachyons, particles that are supposed to travel backwards in time, do not account for sound and smell crossing the time barrier. Nor would tachyons account for a future human seeing into his distant past and talking to someone in that past.

Reference to Tir Na Og, a Gaelic land of the fae, also pushes what could otherwise be a strong science fiction novel into the realm of fantasy. If Intrusion had been written by a woman it would have been classified as fantasy; because Intrusion was written by a man, he gets away with fantasy elements.

Rant aside, Intrusion is an interesting story with chilling observations about human nature and where UK (and Australian) societies could be headed as citizens cede individual autonomy to government control. I’d prefer the science to be tighter but the characters’ engagement with issues confronting them are well worth the read.

Intrusion is an interesting novel to engage a book discussion group.

I need to add: ‘YAY for a dystopian novel that isn’t aimed at the YA market!’ Intrusion has adults dealing with adult issues, a refreshing change.

Nalini
Nalinihttps://www.darkmatterzine.com
Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.

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