- 10 Oct 19
Back To The Future
Robert Harris, the man behind such gripping yarns as the Nazis-win-the-war thriller Fatherland and the Blair-baiting The Ghost, not to mention his excellent Cicero trilogy, returns with what, at first glance, seems like his usual fare. It’s the year 1468 and Robert Fairfax, a young priest, has been dispatched by his bishop to attend to the burial of Father Lacy. Lacy’s name has been whispered about in terms of heresy and the banned books Fairfax finds in the late clergyman’s house confirm it.
The village of Addicott St George is indicative of this England as a whole – superstitious and suspicious, a society firmly under church rule. Alongside Lady Durston and her suitor Captain Hancock, and aided by the antiquarian Shadwell, Fairfax investigates just what Lacy was up to when he died at local spook spot, The Devil’s Chair.
This is a well-constructed page turner - no surprise given whose name is on the cover - which is completely flipped on its head on precisely page 23. Other reviews have given the game away, so I might as well join in. Fairfax’s discovery of the ruins of an Apple device amongst Lacy’s belongings is the first indication that this is a work of speculative fiction set some 800 years in the future. With the help of documents from a Professor Morgenstern, a Nobel prize winner from our time, it’s revealed that the Apocalypse hit a quarter way into the 21st century, marked in the new calendar as the year 666.
It should be obvious even to the unconscious that Harris is having a go at our own society as lowest common denominator populism has us hurtling towards the abyss, and the mystifying and bizarre distrust of expert opinion and scientific fact, abetted by reams of religious hogwash, call down a new dark age. Putting aside those pleasant thoughts, fans of the man - they are legion and their taste can't be faulted - should and will lap this up.