Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw

Outwalkers by Fiona ShawJake Riley’s youthful life is being inexorably sapped by an educational establishment whose duty of care owes more to repression than expression. The Academy attempts to imprison the hearts and minds of its reluctant inhabitants and is an unwanted symbol of the government’s determination to control the people of England at any cost.

The Coalition is a political party whose views are more Kim Yong-un than David Cameron; think fake news with a Cold War edge. Yet Jake manages to escape but only for the sweet smell of freedom to be quickly replaced with the less fragrant aroma of outdoor living as he is inducted into the feral world of the Outwalkers who are part of the disenfranchised underclass operating under the radar of accepted society.

Given the current political climate it’s ironic that the end of the rainbow for the Outwalkers is Scotland but to reach this pot of tartan gold they have to outwit a determined and deadly force of hubbers, the state police to you and I, and then circumvent a latter day Hadrian’s wall which has been created to keep the English people out of the Scottish Marches

The hubbers are the recurring nemesis but in their circuitous journey north it’s the subterranean gangs inhabiting the cavernous underbelly of London who provide their stiffest resistance. The dark, toxic environment hidden from the light provides a cloak of anonymity to people whose existence has been airbrushed from public awareness. The author paints a funereal picture of forgotten, worthless lives eking out an existence with propaganda presenting a deliberate campaign of misinformation to ensure that public empathy is on the side of the government.

The characterisation within the youthful gang comprises a mix of the nervous, the sick, the tragic and the resolute but throughout the author captures the impact of stolen childhoods on those forced to come to terms with circumstances beyond their control. The pace of the plot is unrelenting with the chase reaching its climax as the unlikeliest of good Samaritans emerges from the shadows with divine-like intervention

The lives portrayed are ones eked out under suffocating pressure; this is a contemporary 1984 but juxtaposed against the relative normality and acceptance of people unwittingly believing news is more real than alternative.

Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw (Published by David Fickling Books. Price £10.99 in hard cover). Buy it at Amazon.

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