We See Everything by William Sutcliffe
Bloomsbury, pb, £3774
reviewed by Martin Willoughby
This book is at the same time fascinating and disturbing.
It’s set in an alternate London, part of which has been cut off from the rest of Britain and is known as The Strip. Inside this strip people live, laugh, love and hope for better. They try to survive and carry on as humans do, even in the worst of circumstances. Inside The Strip, there’s also an organisation called ‘The Corps’ who are trying to break free, so the people can once again live normal lives.
Currently, no one who lives in the strip can live normally due to the drones that fly over The Strip watching everything, and due to the fact that none of the residents can leave the area. Others can come in and return, but not the inhabitants. They have been isolated for reasons that are not given.
There were supply once tunnels in Brixton, but they were bombed by the British government while occupied by members of The Corps. The hope was that the organisation would fold and the government could once again take total control.
The story is about two people, Lex and Alan, both in their mid-late teens, but living on a different side of the border. Lex’s father is a member of The Corps, while Alan is about to become a member of the security unit that flies the drones.
What makes this book fascinating is the way Sutcliffe tells the two different stories while bringing them both to climax near the end, showing that in any conflict there are always good reasons for people doing what they do. Whichever side they are on. In the two characters he describes how opposite sides differ through the use of news, information and playing on the trust of the people they govern, yet, at heart, are the same.
Both Lex and Alan are doing what they believe to be right for their ‘side’, each believing the other to be the enemy. The allusions to modern, and historical, politics and war are not hidden anywhere in this story. Instead they are very much the foundation of it.
What makes the book disturbing is the realisation that in another time, this could happen to us. We could be in the strip, or outside, and have our lives unknowingly co-ordinated by news and propaganda to hate one group and like a different one, to discern and judge by where someone lives and how they supposedly exist. To make our distant neighbours not ‘us’, but ‘other’.
According to many, this is already occurring.
At the end the individual stories are wrapped up, showing that we are all the same underneath, be it physically, mentally, or emotionally. We all long for someone to love, something to do, somewhere to live and something to hope for.
It’s a story that reaches inside humanity and shows us who we really are.