Well, having had this book pointed out to me, prizewinning already and set in a future Ireland, I downloaded it faster than you can say ‘dystopian’. It wasn’t at all what I expected but, after initial doubts, Barry’s book grew on me.
The City of Bohane in 2053 could, for working purposes, be Limerick, though that city is not set on a peninsula as Bohane is. Although set in the future the world has rapidly regressed. Modern technology no longer exists. There is no personal transport or telecommunications for example. The city is decaying and is divided into factions, one of which holds sway until usurped by another. Knives are the weapon of choice, no mention of guns. Outside the city is the Big Nothin’, a backward rural wastescape.
Logan Hartnett is the acknowledged leader of the Fancy who hold power for the time being. But he is being examined for signs of weakness. Eventually the Norries, a confederation of religion-abiding but warlike families take them on. Hartnett forms an alliance with the inbred Sand-Pikeys who live on the dunes and wins the day, though only delaying his inevitable downfall.
Barry paints a vivid and disturbing picture of this future world. Disturbing because it is one quite conceivable way in which society could evolve; certainly there is presently little indication that the world will continue to march relentlessly forward as in recent centuries.
There is little of recognisable Ireland here. Some Irish surnames remain. Some older folk vaguely remember the ‘lost-time’ but that world has gone. Speech and vocabulary has changed as have drugs of choice – now poppies are harvested from the Big Nothin’. Brothels of all types abound. A city authority and the ‘hoss polis’ try to maintain some semblance of civilisation.
The plot is thin and predictable enough and the ending lame – it appears a new female faction has won the day. But it is Barry’s vision that holds the reader; his descriptions, the speech patterns, the way everyday life for the people has changed to one of survival rather than advancement. Not a book for those in search of Ireland but one that intrigues, disturbs and entertains.