A university student, a vet and a conspiracy theorist unravel a dangerous government plot in a near-future England.
In this dystopian London, the endless War for Freedom has led to a gradual erosion of civil rights, with heavily armed police officers and a Military in Schools Scheme that has army officers teaching geography via shoot-’em-up computer games. Amina is on work experience, a junior, coffee-fetching flunky hoping to prove herself as a journalist. A fluffy human-interest story introduces her to Ivor, a paranoid loner, lottery winner and recently injured veteran of the war in Sinnostan (a fictional country vaguely reminiscent of Afghanistan). Amina doesn't want to believe Ivor's tales of false memories and faceless stalkers, but Chi Sandwith, a UFO-obsessed hacker, tracks her down with disturbingly convincing evidence. The trio unearths terrifying evidence of a bizarre scandal involving countless maimed soldiers. In shifting points of view, the prose spoon-feeds details of 20th- and 21st-century geopolitics to readers who lack required context. Ultimately this is an espionage thriller for older teens and adults; the protagonists' concerns (career-building, being thoroughly alone in the world, post-military PTSD) skew the book older. U.S. readers may balk at the recurring use of "oriental," which has less negative connotations in the U.K. than in the States, as well as other stereotypes and slurs sometimes (but not always) spoken by unsavory characters.
A good crossover thriller for conspiracy-theory lovers. (Science fiction. 17 & up)