Where do I start? How about with one word…excellent.
Forest of Lies is aimed at teenagers, but is better than a lot of the trash aimed at adults so I would recommend it to them too. It’s set in the not too distant future, where global warming has caused a massive rise in sea levels and London is prone to flooding, and that’s where the story starts.
The Thames Barrier has failed and large parts of London are being flooded, including the area that Mark lives in. He’s rescued by his father who happens to be in charge of Global Solutions, one of several companies the government has hired to help the UK avoid the worst of the calamities that have overtaken the world.
On top of this, the global devastation caused by the planet’s warming has brought tens of thousands of refugees to the UK, and this is where the story gets deeper and far more chilling. Mark, who has been sent down to Devon to stay with his cousin, Ashanti, gets drawn into a web of violence and slavery that is ignored by some very powerful people in Britain and actively encouraged by others.
Add into the mix a private security firm, FIST, who have been hired to run the camps that the refugees are sent to and you have a story all too relevant to today’s world. Yes the events are extreme, but none of the story contained within is impossible.
As it’s aimed at teenagers, the lead characters are all children, with adults helping out where they can, but none of the leads are impotent. Mark gets drawn into the politics and violence, unwillingly at first, but then immerses himself after seeing the truth about his gadgets and clothing.
The finale and the epilogue are well told, especially the graveyard scene, where the youngsters who have died are remembered.
The world Speyer has built and populated is as well drawn as any, and is one that will ring true with anyone who has watched the increasing extremes of weather across the world, as well as those who have kept up to date with the problem of immigrants and refugees and the countries that take them in.
In many a dystopian future, such as the Freezone novels of Simon Mordern, war has caused untold damage to the planet. Speyer has taken the natural world and the current litany of disasters as his starting point instead and built one equally as frightening and, quite possibly, more real.
A Thames Barrier that fails due to a lack of maintenance, a ship that runs into a seaside village during a gale and high tides and politicians bowing to companies who promise to solve all the problems of global warming and immigration if only the governments would trust them and leave them be. These are only some of the background elements that weave throughout this tale.
Chris Speyer’s first book, Devil’s Rock, was well received and reviewed and was published by Bloomsbury, so why didn’t they take up the option on this one I don’t know. As a result, Speyer has self-published it via Xlibiris and has done a very good job of editing and producing it. The quality of the book is equal to that of any traditionally published book, and has far fewer spelling mistakes than I’ve seen in many a book I’ve read recently, including Alastair Reynold’s latest novel, On The Steel Breeze.
The publisher’s loss as far as I’m concerned. It’s an excellent book.