Nic has started her reviews of this year’s Clarke shortlist with her take on The Execution Channel:
MacLeod is excellent at conjuring this atmosphere of all-pervading suspicion, and is clearly interested in examining how it affects people’s interactions; in light of this, it is odd that there is no Muslim viewpoint character to give us the view from within. The hostile Othering of Muslims — the kneejerk fear directed at neighbours, shopkeepers, fellow commuters — is decried, but MacLeod only replaces it with an ostensibly positive Othering. James (who is heroically more tolerant and clear-sighted than his countrymen, naturally) rescues a Muslim family from their firebombed shop and the angry mob baying for their blood, but this only substitutes the dodgy fifth-columnist image with pitiable victims, rather than real people. In some ways this is a reflection of the treatment of character more generally; none of the major characters really stand out as vital, well-rounded creations. Rather, they operate more as vehicles by which the story-world’s paranoid injustice may be felt by the reader; their lack of individuality and distinctiveness arguably means that we put ourselves in their position, rather than feeling for them as people afflicted.
(I may have quoted the most negative paragraph in the review for effect. You’ll have to read the whole thing to find out.)