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.