‘An ensouling fable in the great Bradbury tradition’

Old, rusty, heavy, industrial iron door.5 stars – Trevor Veale

This reviewer was given an advance reader copy by the author.
“Between the roofs and roads, there was no room for countryside.”
There is no room for freedom either in the highly-ordered existence of a redo bod in the Lost Lands of Harkaway Hall. Like the Fantoccini Electrical Grandmother in Ray Bradbury’s beguiling story, the bod “is built with loving precision to give the incredible precision of love” to the Intrepid Guests (visitors) in the Lost Lands, an estate of trees, streams, lakes and meadows dotted with a museum, galleries and cafes. This hi-tech theme park is marooned in a smog-shrouded, urbanised world where rising sea levels have shrivelled the countryside to commercial theme parks and the Marches, a wilderness of drowned dwellings and mudflats where no one ventures.
When a catastrophic lightning strike renders him memoryless, Paftoo is condemned to spend his days as one of a team of six bods operating poovers (a combination of poo and hoover) and redoing fields by clearing them of the dung left by Lifeform 4s (cows) and Lifeform 3s (horses). Unlike the others, after redoing fields, removing nature’s traces and entertaining visitors with song and dance designed to advertise features of the Lost Lands and sell products gleaned from data on visitors’ Pebble phones, Paftoo cannot switch off. While Pafseven, Pafnine and the other bods remain inert, Paftoo hears the rush of horses and gallops on horseback through a wood. Until stopped by an old door in the ground. His dreams continue to torment him until, after consulting with Tickets, a deformed bod who guards the entrance to the Lost Lands, he learns of a vanished world where the former inhabitants of Harkaway Hall danced, hunted and lived in manorial splendour.
To avoid the dreaded group sharing (where the bods’ minds are wiped and updated) that Pafnine, the team leader, recommends to keep the bods focused, Paftoo knows he must regain the freedom glimpsed in his dreams and recovering memories; and bridling, taming and riding a horse in the Zone of Silence is the key.
Roz Morris’s limpid and poetic style of prose gleams and crackles like lightning over the struggles of Paftoo, his horse Pea and Wallop and Tidy, two renegade bods, to escape the scheming commercial masters and their Dispose bods, a black-suited elimination squad, in order to claim their freedom. An ensouling fable in the great Bradbury tradition.

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