Saturday, 18 August 2012
Discontents - James Wallace Birch
Author: James Wallace Birch
Genre: General Fiction
It has been quite a while since I read any form of political thriller so I was looking forward to reading "Discontents" by James Wallace Birch. What I discovered was a slow burner of a novel that explores the various ideologies that our societies are currently based around. It really did make me think about things such as the roles of governments and corporations in our lives, which I suspect are the main purpose of a novel such as this.
The story itself follows the life of Emory Walden, an infamous blogger who has been sharing his dissatisfaction with the government and society in general. Upon his return to the US after travelling around Europe, he is approached by a wealthy man named Fletcher Spivey who wants to help Emory spread the word about the ails of society. Fletcher uses his money to create an alternative identity for Emory to ensure he remains safe and free. However soon paranoia beings to influence Emory and he begins to question various incidents and the relationships he has formed with people who know his true name.
I found the story to be quite dry and slow at first as it revels in the various issues and opinions of those who are unhappy with what society currently offers. After the first few chapters I really wasn't sure if I would enjoy it as I can't say that I follow similar views to what we see in the novel. However I am glad that I stuck with it as even though it isn't the fastest paced novels Birch still manages to take this political view point and integrates it into a rather interesting political thriller full of intrigue, paranoia, subterfuge, a few plot twists and even a little bit of romance.
Whilst I didn't really relate to Emory's overall viewpoints, it was still quite enjoyable to follow the viewpoint of an outsider like him, someone with no real prospects who was quite simply dissatisfied with what society could offer. In addition I found Emory to be a believable character, full of the hypocrisy, ego and flaws prevalent in most personalities. There was no attempt by Birch to make him perfect and this was a welcome change to the standard thriller novel that would usually follow the antics of a super spy or highly intellectual analyst.
There were a few issues with the novel however; the first is that there is a plot twist regarding a homeless man called Renton which I won't say much about beyond the fact that it just seemed thoroughly incredulous to me. There were also a few logical issues that had me feeling the same way such as one about Emory's face being plastered around the place yet no one seemed able to identify him even when he was in the police station or wandering around the streets all because he was using a different name.
Overall, this was a thought provoking and interesting read that I think most political minded readers should enjoy. This is definitely not a book for people expecting a light or easy read and I think the slow pace could prove a challenge for some. However, if you do want your ideas and thoughts challenged by what is at its heart an entertaining story then go ahead and pick it up.
Challenges Book Counts Towards:
Ebook Reading Challenge (Workaday Reads)
Free Reads Challenge