Sunday, November 28, 2010

Review: The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith

The Miracle Inspector
Genre: Dystopian/Thriller/(Sci-Fi?)

Summary: Lucas and Angela - almost 25, almost 21- could be your regular, every day couple, but they are not. Because they do not live in a regular, everyday world, either.
This is the future and it is not a nice one. At least not if you are a woman.
The world spun dangerously out of control, so much that terrorism is perhaps the worst fear imaginable and exactly for that women are not allowed to do anything work, go out unaccompanied etc)unless they are with their husbands.
Everything is controlled and supervised and to this purpose there are Ministries overseeing almost every aspect of life. Lucas is the Inspector of Miracles. That is, he investigates every report he receives about miraculous events.
He is well-off. Life for him and his wife, is not as hard as it is for others, but still, how much can a person endure when he doesn't have his freedom?

Helen Smith kindly offered me a copy of her book to review and I am so grateful and thrilled that she did, because I loved it - so thank you Mrs Smith :D
I can't believe I hadn't discovered this little gem before! *g*

I must admit I was surprised by how much I liked this book.
Not because I didn't like the summary I read, but, mainly, because it's been a while since I read something in this genre and I thought that given the fact that I'm too used to vampire and shifter stories, I was too "ruined" (*g*) to thoroughly enjoy it. I was wrong.

Helen Smith's writing reminded me of Ruth Rendell's and Kathy Reich's writing...
Even Patricia Highsmith's writing.
I know they do not write in exactly the same genre, but I loved this straightforward, matter-of-fact delivery.
Short, blunt, powerful sentences that force you to picture their deeper suffering, instead of actually describing it.

In other words, it is more like: "She felt bereft and sick" rather than elaborate description of emotions, which is actually great, because I often found myself filling the blanks and my heart constricted at the thought of all the emotions the character must have felt. And I'm sure that is what the author was going for. For us to feel.

And the dry humor and slight sarcasm lacing the descriptions and the thoughts of the characters was brilliant. I loved it, it must be an English thing! :P

At first, I found myself feeling sad, because it was shown that Angela and Lucas loved each other, but they had fallen into this comfortable silence, this detachment due to life being so controlled and they had stopped really communicating.
It was like there were so many things they wanted to tell each other, but they didn't. They both held back, each one for their own reasons.

Angela is bored, unmotivated and she wants something more from her life. I totally sympathized with her, because if anyone deprived me of the right to get educated, to vote, to make my own decisions to demand my voice to be heard, I would certainly rebel. Angela couldn't though. Anyone who rebelled was detained for questioning and was never heard of again.

Lucas isn't satisfied with his life, either. His life, especially his work life has become a routine. He might have more than one cases every day, but the people who reported the events always turned out to be people who only wanted attention, charlatans or needy and he came to tire of them.

Lucas was hard not to like as a character because trapped though he was in his own semblance of freedom, he truly loved his wife and always worried whether she was safe or happy. He would and did go to extremes to ensure her happiness and for that he deserves praise. He was more appreciative of women than other men of his time, even though he did "experiment" or entertained the thought of "experimenting" with a colleagues wife.
Generally, Lucas often startled me with his thoughts, but I guess it is utterly realistic. We all happen to have fleeting thoughts that can be mean or illogical or inconsiderate. But, once we think more maturely about the issue at hand, we make the right choice.

The secondary characters were also important and enjoyable. From Jesmond - the pseudo-rebel who wrote the lyrics to what would become the emblems of the fight for freedom (and who also suffered an unjust death), to Jason Prince - the poet with the heart of gold who thought it his duty to help whom he considered Jesmond's family to get out of the city and from Maureen, the woman who reported her own personal miracle which was none other than her sweet, disadvantaged daughter Christina.

Helen Smith did a really good job at keeping a steady pace in her narrative and I enjoyed how each chapter was tied to the previous one even though after the middle of the story each chapter referred to another character. It was a nice tough and I think it made the book more intriguing.

Towards the end, I was more and more affected by the book to the point that when a village man helped Angela find refuge in another city without asking for the price she thought, I was in tears.
The word was in ruins morally speaking, no amount of control could fix their souls, it could only force them to comply, it could only dictate their actions and not their feelings, but still it was so depressing and moving.

I loved the little sunshine of hope all through Angela's, Maureen's and Christina's journey to liberty, even with all that darkness. It helped me restore some sense of faith in mankind and humanity.

The ending was bittersweet and I have to admit that although in the beginning I wasn't expecting it, as I read on, it was the only thing that seemed possible and fitting.

Notable Description/Scene:

"Those flowers are lovely, Arthur. Very English, like your name. Like seasides and countrysides."
"Long time since either of us have seen the sea, I'll bet."
"You can go down to the sand on the Thames at low tide, near London Bridge. Have you seen them do it?"
..."Yes. Not the same though, is it, sir? That saltiness in the air as you lick your ice cream. The sound of the waves, kids laughing, sand castles, going home to put on after-sun cream."

He didn't say whether he‟d seen it on a documentary on TV or whether he remembered these things from his childhood. He was older than Lucas, perhaps he remembered it.
Lucas took the flowers and the scent almost overwhelmed him. He could have stood there and cried, looking at the man, Arthur, with his English name, his not-especially gay attitude to floristry and his distant memories of a better life, when people had thought nothing of going to the sea side and buying ice creams for their kids."

A very powerful futuristic, dystopian thriller. This book was a slow burner in the sense that it takes some time for you to fully immerse yourself into the world Helen smith created. But once you do, it swallows you whole like quick sand and doesn't let you go.
It's been quite some time since I last felt this sense of imminent danger and well, this kind of sinister feeling, this urgency... I actually feared for the character's safety and I think you will find the whole thing stunning

4 stars. {Lovers of the genre will devour it. If you are new to the genre you might find the story slow to start, but read on and you will totally love it}

Find Helen Smith at: Site , Goodreads , Blog

Buy "The Miracle Inspector" on Amazon

~ Kelly


L.C. Evans said...

Sounds like a really good book. Thanks for posting a review.

Kelly aka yllektra(I Work For Books) said...

I'm sure you will enjoy it if you read it!
Thank you!

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