An excellent first novel, suspenseful and with lots of twists. Intrigue, mysticism, religion, the war on terror and much more. A cracking read.
by Brian Firth
A highly intelligent, constantly gripping, literary, scholarly novel that goes where few authors would dare to tread: right into the simmering cauldron that is today's (dis)United Kingdom, a country that no amount of mainstream media cosmetics can ever portray as a harmonious success story.
We have a multi-layered, intricate plot, a constantly twisting narrative studded with unexpected turnings & shocks & a cast of believable characters facing excruciatingly hard choices. This is a UK bedevilled by a weak, supine government, once a proud nation state but now subverted from within by a deeply compromised, self-serving, corrupt Establishment, a British 'Deep State', a country in which public disillusion with the 'ruling elite' is reaching incendiary levels. And we have fanatical islamic terrorism, growing more audacious, more ruthless, by the day. A veritable powder keg, yet the author is scrupulously careful with his words, at no time polemical but telling the tale in a neutral manner, a recorder of facts with no axe to grind.
The novel is driven forward by the mysterious presence of an unknown, lethal counter-terrorist force that, seemingly frustrated by political inertia, has now 'taken the law into its own hands', & by a shadowy metaphysical power from an older Britain that has chosen to involve itself with the country's contemporary crisis.
I have read this outstanding novel once, & in a few weeks will read it again, knowing there will be even more layers to savour in this immaculately written book. A fine achievement by a contemporary author who has the determination, the vision, the courage, to not only write about this country's parlous condition but to also get it published. That's some achievement in these censorious times!
The breadth & vision of this book is profoundly cinematic, & in the hands of the right director would be a film that would blow so called 'political thrillers' out of the water. An outstanding & inspiring read. Highly recommended.
by Joe Williams
This is a super read. The characters share the same struggle to remain decent human beings in a country under attack. Confused and literally ejected from their comfort zones by events, they learn to adapt to the unthinkable, survive and prepare themselves for the next onslaught.
The authorities betray the ordinary people by their denial of the loss of control of a situation they themselves have created. But there are older and wiser heads which are dedicated to preserve the soul of the nation living in the mysterious Pocket who will seed its recovery.
Ancient and modern combine to paint a recognisable Britain in the 21st Century. The Unseen Path takes the reader on the first leg of the journey, with more to come. This may be a first novel but when it's of this quality, it cannot be the last.
by Susanna Smith
If you want bangs, bullets and bombs then go for it! This tale has some of the most exciting action sequences I have read in recent years, right from the start up until the final denouement. Modern irregular warfare, pursued on our own home turf - which gives it the spike of urgency and connects viscerally with all-too real concerns about the future of our country. If you want cause for hope in human resilience, as well as an impassioned rehearsal of much that the author feels to be dangerously wrong in modern-day life, here is a story that will grip you.
However, to describe The Unseen Path as just a novel of action would be to do it a real injustice - it is much more than that. The Unseen Path of the title is a startlingly original literary conceit of the imagination, rooted in history and legend and folded into our landscape as well as into some of our deepest beliefs. It energises the narrative action in a startling way that perhaps nothing else could, giving it purpose beyond the simple will-to-survive when faced with a terrible threat of annihilation or slavery . Its creation is a product of the author's learning every bit as much as of his undoubted story-telling ability, and I found it fascinating in its own right.
However, it is not the only unseen path that runs through this book - there are others that the author either consciously incorporates, or takes as a given, for us to agree or disagree with as we choose.
First, there is the path of history that in the book is overtaking our country, and risks overwhelming both it and us. The premise is an imagined situation where Britain (I use that name despite a certain discussion in the book itself) is in peril of its life, every bit as much as it was under the onslaught of war just 70 years ago. However, unlike those past times the majority of the population remains asleep to the danger, and the conflict is taking place largely unacknowledged, and right under their noses. The path of history is truly unseen to most, even as the country is targetted by enemies as wicked and ruthless as any of the past. A bleak but compelling fictive background propelling the stream of action, with the agents themselves largely invisible to the population at large.
Second, there are the characters in the book. This is no comforting soap opera, where everything happens, but in the end, somehow, nothing happens - where those characters simply affirm who they were all along, and as individuals are replaced, the overall reality of the drama stays the same. In this story, they do change - on each of the several conflicting or interacting sides, they alter with events - just as people do in reality when confronted with tragedy or horror, deepening relationship or sudden revelation. For better or worse, whether they approach their own inner destruction - the book does not shy away from this - or whether they find insight, reconciliation, courage or even approach a kind of salvation - the characters are typically finding their way, propelled along their own unseen path. It gives the story a reality which can be very uncomfortable at times, but is always engaging.
There are perhaps three major strands which typically engender a work of fiction - lived experience, imagination, and conviction. Some tales limp along on one or two of these, relying on the sheer story-telling ability of the author to cover what is lacking in their roots. However, this one has plenty of each, and has no need of mere glibness to paper over any cracks. The author's lived experience is not perhaps where you would look for it - we have got used to those sons of action fictionalising their lives for our entertainment. Although the action sequences in this book are very good, very convincing, our author's own experience includes, unusually, a learned and scholarly background. It is what gives a crucial reality to the most imaginative elements of the tale - the Unseen Path of the title, and what it leads to. To go into it at all would spoil the story - you will have to read it to find out. And he certainly does have a power of imagination which is convincing in its own right.
As to the conviction, well, that shines through in driving the action on, past the 'mere' feelings of the agents and actors and into a vision of a future based solidly on a dark but grounded view of the present. At a time when our world seems to be faced with so many frightening and dangerous possibilities, this book stares some of them squarely in the face, and that in itself is evidence of its author's conviction.
I first read this book in a serialised form, and I was consistently looking for the next episode from the moment I finished the latest one. It is that kind of book - a truly exciting read from beginning to end. The rest of it is simply a bonus, so read it and enjoy a wonderful story of the good guys vs the bad guys. Everything else just adds to the authenticity, and the residual traces it may leave in your own experience or conviction. A difficult trick to pull off in such an original and imaginative way.
by Stuart Beaker