I think this may be the first time I’ve read a novel by a blogger (as opposed to reading the blogs of novelists) but if others are up to this standard, then I might have to find more.
The Ministry Of Love is, as far as I’m aware, only available as an e-book from Amazon (and for a ridiculously low price), but it might be a good reason to get a Kindle, or at least a Kindle app for some other device as it’s the sort of book that will definitely appeal to the sort of people who read this sort of blog. O’Mahony’s like a benevolent version of Christopher Brookmyre, most notably in the fact that one The Ministry Of Love‘s subplots has wandered straight in from A Snowball In Hell. However, while Brookmyre’s attitude often seems to be that the whole world is going to hell and is only held back by the work of a few decent people, O’Mahony takes a somewhat more optimistic view of the human race.
More after the cut, but there be spoilers for the novel there so don’t read if you want to approach it with fresh eyes. I definitely recommend giving it a try, though – it’s easily worth £1.14 of anyone’s money.
The book features a beleaguered British Prime Minister who, in an attempt to find something to save himself from the electorate, alights upon the idea of a genius scientist to create what becomes the National Companionship Agency – a Government-funded and incredibly effective matchmaking agency, bringing together single people with their perfect matches and making them happy. Naturally, making the majority of the population happy is going to make some people very unhappy, and they’ll take some rather extreme lengths to stop it happening. This is all then mixed in with an election campaign and a particularly creative serial killer who targets vapid celebrities.
What’s interesting in O’Mahony’s approach to this is that he looks at the story through a broadly optimistic lens, rather than a cynical one. The Prime Minister is depicted as a decent man out to do the right thing and save the country from his media-friendly, content-free opposition and the NCA is just what it sets out to be, not the facade for some evil attempt at combining Stalinism and the Moonies. Indeed, one of the weaknesses in the book is that there’s not much attempt at depicting the opposing view with the antagonist an amoral mercenary rather than someone ideologically driven to bring the project down.
That’s not to say that the book is an entirely Pollyanna paean to the joys of social engineering. There are interesting debates between characters on the ethics of what they’re doing, as well as other civil liberties issues that come up in the course of the hunt for the serial killer. It also poses some interesting questions – if the Government starts finding perfect partners for single people, what message does that send to people who found theirs the old-fashioned way? O’Mahony also enjoyably cynical about the process of politics, and the book is peppered with a series of one-liners and observations about just how the public engage with the political process, and how that contrasts with the attention paid to reality TV and celebrity culture.
It’s definitely worth a try – it’s an enjoyable read, and the somewhat open ending makes me wonder if O’Mahony’s planning some further outings for these characters.