Saturday, January 12, 2019

Book Review: Riot 71

January is Dystopia in England Month !

Book Review: 'Riot 71' by Ludovic Peters

2 / 5 Stars

'Riot 71' was first published in hardcover by Walker and Company in 1967; this Hodder Paperbacks version (223 pp) was released in the UK in 1968. 

While copies of the paperback version in good condition are hard to find and expensive when found, the hardbound edition is a bit easier to get hold of.

'Ludovic Peters' was a pseudonym used by the German-born, British writer Peter Brent. During the 60s Peters wrote six novels featuring the private detective Ian Firth; 'Riot 71' is the sixth (and final) of these novels.

'Riot' is set in the UK in 1971. Economic problems have brought deprivation and widespread unemployment, with the government helpless to do much about either. The presence of a large number of black immigrants is gradually becoming a source of resentment among working class whites, who see their already slim hopes of gaining jobs endangered by the presence of these 'interlopers'.

A cabal of white aristocrats, known as the Nordic Union, are eager to exploit this growing racial antipathy. As the novel opens, Gerald Hudson, the young, white leader of the Inter-Racial Integration Society (IRIS), is struggling to counter the Union's clandestine efforts to exacerbate racial tensions, but his efforts are complicated by the knowledge that the Union will not hesitate to commit murder to further its aims.

Ian Firth, and his doughty Welsh man-at-arms John Smith, selflessly agree to assist Hudson without seeking recompense. Firth soon discovers that the conspiracy set in place by the Union is complex, and extends into the higher levels of the government. But as England lurches ever further into racial violence and anarchy, can the efforts of Firth and his small team of allies avert complete disaster from overtaking the UK ? 

I finished 'Riot 71' thinking that the book would have been better served by being crafted as a standalone novel, rather than as an entry in the 'Ian Firth' series. Author Peters certainly has an interesting premise and doesn't belabor the narrative with kumbaya bromides, wisely allowing the violence to feed upon itself, with each party feeling they are in the right.  

However, the narrative suffers from regularly having to veer from its effective portrayal of a near-future UK wracked by bloodsoaked race riots to rededicate itself to relaying the actions of Firth and his allies, actions which often have a contrived tone more in keeping with spy or thriller novels. 

For example, one man is able to outwit and outfight a surprise attack launched by a team of thugs; villains launch into 'bwah ha ha !' speeches, after which their captives are imprisoned, rather than being immediately executed; and convenient blunders by the villains leave all manner of openings for Ian Firth and this colleagues to take advantage of. Add in dialogue that often is stilted, and I got the feeling that I had invested rather too much time into a novel that really didn't live up to expectations.

Summing up, I can't recommend 'Riot 71' as a must-have examination of a dystopian UK. To be fair, that may not have been author Peters's intention, but all the same, this novel represents a missed chance to be a memorable entrant in the genre.

No comments: