Friday 30 May 2008

The Friday Project - Sacrifice of Fools by Ian McDonald

Declan Burke, thon ragamuffin from CAP has been spreading the word about this project, spear-headed by Patti Abbot. Seems like a just cause. So, feast your eyes on this week's offering.

Ian McDonald is an award winning science fiction writer who's lived in Northern Ireland since childhood. But in Sacrifice of Fools he has created a unique blend of crime and science fiction. Sacrifice of Fools follows an ex-convict who became an expert in the alien Shian culture while serving time in The Maze, a Northern Irish prison. His expertise makes him a trusted figure among the Shian community of Northern Ireland and he gets caught up in an investigation when a prominent Shian family is brutally murdered.

I'm a fan of most genres in fiction, so for me, this was a gripping read. But really, the Shian aliens could be taken as a metaphor for any ethnic minority in any country. However, setting the novel in Northern Ireland, an already divided society, adds a whole new dimension. So don't be running away from it just because you hate Star Trek!

What struck me about the book, published in 1996 (pre-Good Friday Agreement) but set a few years in the future, was how often McDonald's predictions were on the money. Example, one of the supporting characters is a female catholic cop in the newly formed Northern Ireland Police Service. He nailed the concept of the reformed force and even the civilian attitudes towards it. But in our world, the RUC realised that the acronym NIPS wasn't the best, so we've got the PSNI now. Still, McDonald was pretty damn close.

Sacrifice of Fools was way ahead of its time and is still highly relevant. A lot can be learned about Northern Ireland through this story. Or it can just be enjoyed as a great crime story with a science fiction twist.

You know, just thinking about it, I'd like to read it again.


Michael Stone said...

Ach, you stole my line! I was reading your review thinking I'd leave the comment "Fantastic book, I'll have to read it again." You beat me to it.

Thanks for reminding me of it, though. This is right up there in my all-time top ten favourite reads. Pure gold.

Gerard Brennan said...

That's right, Mike. Sure you recommended it to me. Thanks for that!


pattinase (abbott) said...

Gerard, I'll put this one up next week since I missed it this one. Thanks for participating. Looks like a great book. Patti

John McFetridge said...

It does sound like a fantastic book, I'll have a look for it in Canada.

And, really, they didn't go for NIPS? Huh.

Gerard Brennan said...

Patti - Thanks. That'll be grand. And yeah, SOF is a cracker. If you're into SF at all, the rest of his stuff is worth checking out. He's currently published by Pyr in the states and Gollancz in the UK.

John - Thanks for stopping by. If you don't find it on a Canadian bookshelf perhaps this'll be of some help? Click here.


jerrygordon said...

An ex-con hero in near future NI? I'm already interested. My overstocked bookshelf wants a word with you, GB.

Gerard Brennan said...

Jerry - Sorry you're bookcase hates me. Mine own's not much of a fan of mine either, but what can you do? So many great books out there. Gotta have 'em.