The Wall by John Lanchester
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The Wall is about Kavanagh, filling his national service on the coastal wall that girdles the UK to keep out the Others after the world has gone to pot from the Change, which saw sea levels rise around the world and, we guess, massive environmental damage and human displacement. I say 'we guess' because the world building is short on detail. So short I thought The Wall was going into allegorical territory but if it was it didn't have a lot to say other than 'it's complicated'. And if it wasn't an allegory, the world building was unconvincing. For example it's set a little in the future and they still have TV and mobile phones but the Wall is super low-tech and the guards don't even have night vision goggles or automated defences.
It's also been compared (incorrectly by some) to 1984. Kavanagh is no Winston Smith. He doesn't question or resist. He drifts. Maybe this is Lanchester's comment on late 20th/ early 21st Century humanity. Whatever, it doesn't make for an engaging character or prosecution - through their eyes - of a particular stance.
The events that happen, while believable, alternate between being quite boringly quotidian and described in mind-numbing detail. There's also a LOT of foreshadowing in the 'little did I know I'd never see her again' vein and even though things pick up a bit in the final sequence there's zero resolution and I actually swore out loud when I read the last sentence because it was the opposite of thought-provoking, fulfilling or anything else you could hope for from the end of a really good book.
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