Tuesday, 1 September 2015

A Rag, A Bone and A Hank of Hair

Nicholas Fisk
Puffin Books

In the twenty-third century children have become scarce. The government have begun manufacturing 'Reborns', new people from old and an unusually bright boy is sent to live with an experimental family of reborn 1940 Londoners.

In the far flung future some 200 years from now a new society has emerged from the aftermath of a nuclear war.  This society is rigidly controlled both by the Elders and by the 'sleepers' implanted in the back of the populaces heads in order to moderate their behaviour. And, much like the society they inhabit, the people of this time are sterile.

To solve this problem, in a manner never explained, the Elders have developed a way of not only cloning people from the past but also of doing so with their memories and personalities intact (yeah, I know).  

In order to monitor these 'reborns' 12 year old genius - and doesn't he know it - Brin is placed into a scenario appropriate to the world from which the reborns have been taken, England 1940, in particular the kitchen of a London terraced house.The reborns - two children and one older lady - are treated as test subjects by the Elders, much to Brin's disgust, as they plot their behaviour in a variety of increasingly callous ways.

Nicholas Fisk
As the story progresses it starts to become increasingly clear that the reborns are not only becoming bored with the scenario they find themselves unwittingly living night after night but they also hint at the strange, vivid thoughts they are having regarding the increasingly elaborate stories Brin spins about his fictional, cover story, fighter pilot uncle.

This all leads into the books final and quite odd act as the world of those in the scenario changes catastrophically.  The conclusion is very ambiguous and one is left with feelings of sadness and confusion but tempered with a sense of hope and purpose as visions and a resounding command echo around this barren land.

As a novel it is a curious sort of read; as a kids book it's quite odd indeed.  As readers we are being held at arms length, possibly deliberately to allow us access to Brin's initial remoteness and arrogant contempt for those around him but the problem with that is that as Brin thaws, and the little that does become clear does so, he remains quite unlikeable.

As I said earlier there is no clear resolution and as such I've ended up spending longer thinking about this book than I did reading it which surely can't be a bad thing.

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