Sequela- Cleland Smith


I am finding it hard not to be over complementary. Smith has a sure-footed competence as a writer that has helped her put together a very original and highly entertaining book. This near future science fiction cleverly links the progress of science, the general `progressiveness’ of social norms, at least in Britain and a quite plausible future `gated’ City of London, into a page turning read.
The version I read had a few silly editing errors, but a word of concern to the author has led to the knowledge that these are being dealt with.
The timeline on the story, set in 2080, seems feasible. This is important because at first the hedonistic world she portrays seems to be a vast distance from where norms of social behaviour are today. There are always extreme deviants, individual cases, but those deviant behaviours rarely and only slowly become mainstream. But sometimes they do, and especially when as in this book they are centred on a particularly powerful subset of people. We see then, generally unacceptable social practices sometimes escaping cloistered sectors of society, such as religious establishments and `cultural’ minority groups, into a wider world. For proof that such rapid changes in normal behaviour are possible we don’t have to look back as far as 70 years in London’s society.
Smith has brought together some interesting possible future science, none of which is too outlandish. Micro-biology and virology may well have made possible the future she has fictionally speculated for 2080, long before that real date. I find the idea of sexually transmitted diseases becoming socially sought after badges to be rather sickening, especially in the light of the terrors of AIDS and historical devastations to society caused by sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, hepatitis and gonorrhoea. However, we all know just how far people will go in challenging their bodies for the sake of the next fashionable kick. I cannot deny the apparent plausibility of the science.
Smith has pulled together a very interesting bag of characters with familiar enough behaviours. I had no trouble in measuring them all up against people I know. Her views on big business, financially crippled public funded science, social inequalities, sexual politics, cultural divisions and human rivalries are all easily spotted today. So then, I am sure that most mature readers will find a convincing enough anchor with Smith’s thinking to be drawn into her 2080.
What a shocking and shockingly good book. There is a very high level of sexual content without the script ever holding the spotlight for so long that it becomes purely pornographic. The reader with a wish for spice will have to paint in their own deviant pictures, which with the help of Smith’s well-chosen prose requires little effort. Many lesser writers seem to miss this balance.


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