My favourite kind of fiction has always been the kind that ‘could-be’ rather than ‘never could be’.
I do like the escapism of a good fantasy, but I’m not satisfied if the story just has the hero winning a million pounds. I want to see the tax implications and his future investment plans as well.
That’s why when most people talk to me about science-fiction they’re thinking about the hoverboards of ‘Back to the Future II’ or the implausibly humanoid aliens from ‘Star Trek’ while I’m thinking DNA-screening for job roles like in ‘Gattaca’
I realised that fiction writers like John leCarre and Greg Egan are so enjoyable precisely because their ‘fiction’ blurs the distinction between truth and, well, fiction. Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ remains to me a profound exploration of socio-political, religious as well as ecological factors that shape mankind’s history. My Dune is not one of dodgy 80s science-fiction props from the Arts Department.
The book ‘Sandstealers’ by journalist and foreign correspondent Ben Brown that I’m reading falls into the same category. It’s a story about war correspondents (write about what you know) involved in the death of a colleague and halfway through it it hit me: This guy knows what he’s talking about. You feel that although names have been changed, there’s a gritty reality to the tale that only comes from being in such situations.
I picked it up as a page-turner, but it really interested me with questions of morality and judgement that reporters have to ask themselves.