“Frank and Anna’s day was one of mixed fortunes. They chased a great brute of a fox down to Chelsea Harbour, finally cornering it in the underground car park, though not before several of the residents had been reduced to hysterics; then they were called to the other end of the King’s Road, where a vixen had slipped on to a bus, bringing the traffic to a standstill as the passengers poured out on to the road. The vixen had escaped in the confusion; by the time Frank and Anna appeared on the scene, she had vanished with a chicken stolen from the Cadogan Rôtisserie.
‘Call yourself a huntsman?’ the manager shouted at Frank. ‘That’s the third fox I’ve had in here this week.’
‘Give them customer loyalty cards, mate,’ Frank replied cheerfully, ‘and don’t forget to ask for their addresses. We’ll catch them, roast them with some parsnips, and your clientele won’t know the difference.’”
What if . . . the British government struck a deal with the People’s Republic of China? And acquired new and ground-breaking technology enabling them to implant a surveillance microchip in every British citizen under the guise of having a routine injection against fox flu.
What if . . . urban foxhunting became a regular event in London? And the Master of the Foxhounds Association found fame as the star of the early-evening TV show, Frank Rides Forth, which follows him and his hounds twice a week, with bookmakers offering odds on how many kills he might make in the next episode.
What if . . . a British biochemistry lecturer based in Beijing, and a key supporter of an underground Christian movement in China were to stumble across the truth embedded within the vaccine?
What if . . . a former City high flier renovating his aunt’s farmhouse in Oxfordshire; a member of the Animal Lovers’ Army and his Goth girlfriend Selina; Mr Yu, a mobile caterer selling British puddings to Chinese restaurants; a vindictive bureaucrat from the local council; and China’s Vice-President Zhou all ended up racing cross the Costwolds with the police and two high-society Chinese assassins in hot pursuit?
Fox is a fast-paced and entertaining topical satire on our surveillance society and the British government’s tendency to grovel to global superpowers. Anthony Gardner delights and surprises in this comedy-thriller which is underpinned by gimlet-eyed observations and wit.The satisfying love story gives hope and consolation at the end, and the illustrations by Nicola and Rosanna Reed add charm and character to the whole. It is perfect for fans of P. G. Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh and Tom Sharpe.
Fox has a dark undertow, however, as it takes aim at what is deemed to be freedom of speech in a democracy, the hypocrisies and injustices of the class system, and most importantly, the way in which emerging technologies can be used to further mass surveillance.
The Investigatory Powers Act was passed in the UK in 2016, enabling the British state to hack, intercept, record and monitor British citizens’ communications and internet use in the name of counter-terrorism, making it the most intrusive system of any democracy in history. Law-abiding environmental activists, democratically elected politicians, victims of torture and police brutality, and numerous journalists are frequently snooped on.
The recent Big Brother Watch report The State of Surveillance in 2018 makes for sobering reading.
Fox by Anthony Gardner | Scotland Street Books | January 2019 £9.99 240pp PB illus.| ISBN: 978-1-910895-29-0
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