Arab Today, arab today blackout by sam mills
Last Updated : GMT 12:06:13
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Blackout by Sam Mills

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Blackout by Sam Mills

London - Arabstoday

It's an odd thought about Sam Mill's Blackout, which deals with censorship, but her book would itself have been at risk of being banned in South Africa in the 1960s merely because of its title. In 1965, a censor during the Apartheid era, without troubling to actually read the book, put Anne Sewell's 1877 novel Black Beauty on a banned list because he didn't like the title. He wrongly assumed that a Victorian novel about a horse was in fact a black rights novel. Banning books is not an issue that goes away. Joseph Heller's Catch 22 was banned in the 1970s by certain states in America and those theatre-goers who see a production of the Wild Swans at the Young Vic in 2012 may reflect on the fact that they are seeing a work of literature that is still banned in China. So Sam Mills is taking on a meaty subject in her new novel Blackout (she thanks Philip Ardagh in the acknowledgements for "thinking up my title") but then her first two novels - A Nicer Way To Die and The Boys Who Saved The World - are both bold, challenging works. Blackout is set in a near future Britain where, because of the threat of social disorder and terrorism, books are banned or 'ReWritten' in sanitised formats. Even Harry Potter (by supposedly encouraging children to try magic) is deemed dangerous enough to be banned. The spirit of Orwell hangs over Mills's book. CCTV cameras are everywhere. It's a time of public hangings, an era when books and iPods are burned and confiscated. Some terrorists and transgressors are even stoned to death in public. Children are encouraged to take 'Behaviour Pills' to be docile and accepting about their lives. The result, in Mills's book, is a "slow, simple, dull generation who never question anything". Growing up in this environment is the main character, Stefan, whose Dad owns a bookshop. Although this is novel of ideas it is also a pacy, chase thriller. That action of the book is sparked by the father's decision to shield a dangerous writer called Omar. After his father is arrested, Stefan eventually goes on therun. He can't trust anyone. He is on constantly shifting ground as he decides who is telling him lies and who is telling the truth. He has to face up to some harsh truths about his mother and father. He is captured by the state and brainwashed into shooting someone. He has to break a code written secretly into a copy of Paradise Lost to work out what is going on. Into the mix of political satire and dangerous thriller, Mills also weaves the story of a bewildered teenager. As Stefan, 16, puts it: "There was a dark river between being a boy and being a man and I wasn't sure how to cross it." It won't do to give away too much of the plot but Mills creates some excellent set-pieces - including a disturbing scene of tooth-pulling - in a novel that is full of thought-provoking ideas for an young adult reader. Her book has already been deservedly shortlisted for a Red House Book Award and a Stockport Schools Award. Read it before it's confiscated. As Stefan says: "Words cannot be trusted. They are confusing as fog."

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