Today’s featured book is The Facility by Simon Lelic.
A novel that will leave you questioning everything.
Why Clay Stafford chose this book:
About the first page of the first chapter, I thought, “What the…” Yet, I was riveted.
The story takes place in a growing English police state more concerned with napping terrorists – and innocents that they think are terrorists – than they are in protecting the innocent.
“My husband is not a terrorist, Mr. Clarke. Whatever he’s into, I can assure you it’s not terrorism. He’s a dentist.” That’s no deterrent. All it takes is someone to point the finger.
I found the novel so real, it was frightening. I feel myself in Arthur Priestley’s shoes, a man with no rights and finally no name (just a number) and being at the mercy of the whims of guards and officials who no longer have to even supply a charge. “Who are you? Are you the police? This isn’t legal, you know. You can’t hold me like this.” National Security covers all actions. “We cannot afford to take risks.”
Interestingly enough, the central character (Arthur Priestly) is not a stand-out character. In fact, he’s rather dull. Opposite to what you might think, this makes it even more harrowing. He’s a boring person who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Somewhere as you read, you realize: This guy could be me. Don’t get me wrong. The characters are great, but the story is about what could happen, not about the characters. It is the situation itself that is all wrong.
The novel is full of government pawns and by the time you get to the end of the book, you see them in real time in real life all around you. “No one opposes the act any more because no one can see how it’s being used.” I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but think Guantanamo. This is Guantanamo U.K. “They arrested him under anti-terrorism legislation. How could you possibly have considered that routine?” “But that’s my point! These days it is routine. Or it can be, at least in terms of how information is fed to the press.” And that’s the lynchpin. We trust the press. The press gets information from the government and then makes the case to the people. Can anyone say Nazi? “They leak information because they want us to have it.” And they want what the press gets to be very specific. Think of the wonderful sounding Freedom of Information Act, the product of an open government. Request something sometime. You’ll get a piece of paper, but it will be covered with crossed-out black lines “for National Security.”
Looking at it outside this book and in the last ten years in the U.S., using anti-terrorist, national security laws, the government can arrest anyone at any time. Technically. Not that they do, but technically. Can a health issue become a matter of national security? Maybe. If you need to protect the population. And, if so, then it falls under (in the U.S.) Homeland Security. So, in effect, something that has nothing to do with terrorism (the basis for Homeland Security) now becomes a concern and is able to be off the grid because it now falls under the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security. Then you realize that it doesn’t have to be a health issue. It can be anything! Label it a security issue and no one can ask a single question. “How I can tell how a law is being used when the whole point of that law is to prevent me finding out?” As long as it falls under anti-terrorist, national security laws, the government is not required to make a charge. If you make a charge, you might lose. Solution, use the laws and don’t make a charge. When that happens, “‘There is every chance you will remain here until – ‘” You die.” At the very least, you bide your time. “The usual rules, at this facility, do not apply. There is no board, no oversight committee. There is just me and the rules I set. So you will behave, please, as I instruct you to behave or you will suffer the punishment I choose.”
There is a strong cast of characters, each one supplying a vital function and thematic consciousness. Thankfully, there are those in the press who can’t be bought. When you’re up against the big machine, “What else do you think you can do?” “Keep digging.” There is a Josef Mengele mad doctor who views patients as lab rats rather than humans. And a more homophobic group (intentionally written that way) you’ve never read. (By the way, I love the improvised baby monitor. I don’t know that I would have the nerve to try it, but it is a clever idea.)
As you read, you wonder who, if any, will do the right thing? The thriller then is not about the lives in jeopardy, but of moral backbone, something that can’t be legislated. Who will do the right thing? Who will stand up and object? “They’re locking up innocent people using laws they said would protect us.” This is Orwellian, if I’ve ever read Orwellian. What makes this scary, though, is that this is not the future as the publisher’s publicity department states on the back of the book; this is what could be happening now, maybe not with disease, but with anything else a government would decide would be threatening. It’s terrifying. In Hollywood, we would call this “high concept.” The plot is so simple, yet overpowering.
“That’s one lesson this government has learnt. They’ve learnt that if they show it, they can’t spin it. If they can’t spin it, they can’t control it. And if they can’t control it, the truth will eventually come out: about what they’re doing; about why they’re doing it in the first place.” The only way, then, is to make it appear that it never happened or use the press to spin it.
This is blow your mind away powerful.
From the publisher:
“In a near-future dystopian Britain, democracy has been undermined. Emboldened by new anti-terrorism laws, police start to “disappear” people from the streets for unspecified crimes. But when unassuming dentist Arthur Priestley is snatched and held prisoner at a top-secret facility, his estranged wife, Julia, and a brave but naive journalist named Tom Clarke embark on a harrowing quest for the truth. Following a trail that leads to the very top of government, they soon find themselves fighting for their lives. Well-crafted, fast-paced, and totally compelling, “The Facility” is a brilliant thriller that resonates eerily with the timbre of our times.”
Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!