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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The End of Marking Time, by C.J. West

Opening with the main protagonist explaining how he had arrived at his current state throws us right into the action
Michael O’Connor has been in a coma for four years as a result of a fellow prisoner’s escape en route to jail. Michael has awoken to a different US justice system, where criminals are no longer jailed but tethered, where on the surface the system appears to be working, but below that surface is a sinister, vigilante attitude towards criminals. Circumstances have no place. Prisoners are less than human. Human rights are dead. (and by extension the society's)
I felt like I was reading Clockwork Orange meets Big Brother meets 1984. (I later read that C.J. West sees his novel as “a modern 1984 meets Prison Break.")
The supposition of the novel was fine, I did get drawn into the action and followed Michael‘s rehabilitation process in this changed society.
The controllers of this process are one dimensional, dehumanized by their very role.
The ending was somewhat surprising, although truth-to-tell; as I approached the final pages I had already surmised parts of it. Let me just say that some things came together too neatly – but then perhaps that is a reflection of this changed society that West portrays where the majority of  people are being forced into neat, little boxes, and the law enforcers have become the oppressors. The color “dark grey” and the word “dangerous” kept floating across my reading as I reflected on the portrayed society. Certainly the premises are disturbing.
Personally I found the closing unsatisfactory and kept asking…Why...or… How else?
… but maybe that’s the author’s very point, particularly as the story ended up haunting me for quite sometime!

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