I talked about Liz Jensen and her fantastic ability to create unique and original character voices in my post about her bawdy romp My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time. She certainly delivers another great narrator and another great set-up in The Uninvited.
Here’s the story: Hesketh Lock, an anthropologist who suffers from Aspberger’s syndrome, works for a firm called Phipps and Wexman. His primary duty is to do PR troubleshooting–when something goes wrong at your firm, Hesketh comes in to identify what went wrong and to make sure nothing like it happens again. At the start of the book, he’s investigating a case of corporate sabotage in Taiwan.
At the same time, there have been several murders committed by children. It is always the children attacking their parents and grandparents, always in something like a fugue state. Eventually, the problem becomes almost apocalyptic–to the point where children everywhere seem to have been somehow possessed. Even Hesketh’s own stepson succumbs to this bizarre behavior.
Hesketh’s talent is in solving puzzles and connecting dots. Over the course of the story he discovers the link between the corporate sabotage and the murderous children, and then has to deal with the consequences.
I don’t want to give too much more away than that about the plotline. Part of the interest of this novel is trying to figure out the connections and then to uncover the implications. This really is not an altogether straightforward narrative, and that’s a good thing.
This is a dystopian novel with a twist. The apocalypse has happened, but it’s not the one we think or the one we expect. The kids are there to give a warning to the grown-ups, and it’s ignored at our own peril. It’s sort of an inverse apocalypse story, an original take which is really refreshing in this our apparent golden age of new-wave sci-fi dystopia novels (Hunger Games, etc.). The Uninvited feels more old-school, a lot more like A Canticle for Leibowitz or Earth Abides.
In all, I found this to be compelling, creepy, atmospheric, and very nicely plotted. I enjoyed the emotional distance Hesketh offers as a narrator. I also loved the rather open ending. As a dystopian novel it hits all the marks, including raising philosophical and moral questions about the future of humanity.
If you enjoy dystopian fiction and are after something that feels pretty new and fresh, definitely give this a try.