In his career as both a journalist and an award-winning novelist, British author Simon Lelic has gained a reputation as a writer with a deep social conscience. This is abundantly evident in his second novel, THE FACILITY.
In a dystopian Britain of the near-future, the government’s attempts to bring about justice and protect the citizens of the land are corrupted by a deeply-flawed institution known simply as “the facility.” The novel opens with a confusing interchange between two nameless officials and a dentist named Arthur Priestly, who is in their custody. The dialogue is difficult to follow, written in an almost Lewis Carroll–like style, whereby most of it comes out sounding like nonsense.
"THE FACILITY is a must-read, eye-opening novel that is a social parable in the disguise of a modern thriller. It’s a book that is sure to keep you up at night thinking of what could be."
The truth behind what is actually being exchanged in this interaction, however, is a far more chilling affair. Arthur is continuously questioned about his proclivity for homosexual activities, which he vehemently denies. As a married man with a young son, he has no idea why he is in this facility, having to defend himself against allegations being made by two sadistic and oppressive strangers.
Arthur’s wife, Julia, does the only thing she can to attempt to get his incarceration overturned. Having been thwarted by the government and police authorities, she turns to the media. Her only hope is a naïve but determined newspaper journalist named Tom Clarke. Tom has been looking for a headline-grabbing opportunity, and the chance to expose the government’s top secret “facility” --- and free Julia’s husband --- might be just the thing to give his career a huge boost.
Alas, we have learned in countless novels and films that you “can’t fight city hall.” Tom begins to make queries in an effort to find one person on the inside who might be able to reveal what the government’s actual intentions are with the facility. He may have found his mark in Henry Graves, the facility’s warden, who has become somewhat disenchanted with the tactics being used to populate the facility. Graves is also highly suspicious of the facility’s nefarious Dr. Silk and the experiments he is working on.
Will Tom be able to use the information supplied by Henry Graves to get Arthur freed? Time is running out, as the falsely accused Priestly is on the list to meet with Dr. Silk --- and that encounter could cost him his life. Simon Lelic does a brilliant job of building tension and painting a portrait of a highly possible future where the Guantanamo Bay-like activities of this fictional facility are chillingly real. THE FACILITY is a must-read, eye-opening novel that is a social parable in the disguise of a modern thriller. It’s a book that is sure to keep you up at night thinking of what could be.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 22, 2012