28 September 2018
“Renard inserted his credit card into the Parkie and opted to play for two dollars. Brisbane City council had been the first local government to introduce Parkies, but now they were everywhere, even the inner-city suburb of Glebe in Sydney. The brought, in a limited way, poker machines to the streets. Motorists still had to pay for parking, but now got one play in return, a chance to hit the jackpot. . . .
He played a new round. This time the parking meter chimed a tinkly rendition of the 1812 Overture finale. . . .Fifty dollars.” [Slot machines are poker machines, 'pokies', in Australia.]
It’s a brave new world in 2028, and although the 2028 political scene in Canberra is sadly reminiscent of 2018, there is a fascinating movement I’d love to join to change the nature of politics – maybe everywhere!
The possibilities and gadgets are all believable (well, I know I’m naively hopeful), and the inventiveness of the plots are delightful.
The subversives (if I can call them that), had all changed their names to Ned Ludd and founded the Luddite Party. It had no website, no email address, no contact list, no nothing. But they do occasionally meet at Low Expectations, a sort of Dickensian bookshop that serves gruel and tea and has teenagers working on looms. No gadgets.
Looms? Here’s a staffer’s explanation to the current Prime Minister of the Luddite Party.
“‘Not our famous bushranger [Ned Kelly]. Ned Ludd is also historical. The Luddites used to send threatening letters to the stocking manufacturers telling them to dismantle their wideframe machines or else. They always signed them Ned Ludd. Ned Ludd did not exist and anyone could write a letter in his name. Having a fictitious leader caused the authorities great difficulty when they attempted to track down the actual ringleaders.’”
That explains the looms, which don’t feature highly, but I will mention the Australian national shearers’ strike in 1983 over the introduction of wide combs, not all that far a cry from wide looms. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_Co...
And now we use the term 'luddite' disparagingly about anyone opposed to technology of any kind. Poor Ned Ludd, if there ever was one.
Back to the novel. The political shenanigans are wonderful! Autocar (driverless car company) wants a seat on the Royal Commission into Road Safety, so they secretly start an organisation called Bicyclism Australia and establish one of their people, Aggie, as President. Voila! A seat on the Royal Commission is hers (theirs). Aggie runs the website, emails, etc. for Bicyclism so realistically that it starts to gather members.
This has ramifications down the line as we watch the Liberal Coalition and the Labor Party stuff things up as only they can. It isn’t really all that political, certainly no more than James Bond is all that political, but it helps if you have some understanding of western democracies and how tied in knots the major political parties are.
Behind the scenes in Canberra.
“When Hargreaves had first started as Minister for Health and was anxious about mastering all she had to master, her senior bureaucrats told her that if ever cornered, she could always rely on the Seven Per Cent Solution.
‘Whatever you are talking about, say it is seven per cent better than it is.’
‘You mean make it up?’ she queried.
‘No,’ they replied, ‘Say it is seven per cent better and rest assured, we can torture our statistics until we get a confession that it is—but’ she was warned, ‘don’t go above seven per cent.’”
When questioned by Ned Ludd (one of many Ned Ludds) about funding for a disease, she dutifully announces that under her watch they have increased the federal funding seven percent.
“‘Really?’ Ned Ludd raised her pale eyebrows. ‘I find that quite remarkable—because I made up the disease. There is no Sikorsky Syndrome.’”
Another Sikorsky successfully strikes the enemy. The author is full of chuckle-worthy references in names and nicknames, and whether or not this is a play on the Sikorsky Blackhawk helicopters, so well-known in combat or not, I don’t know, but it made me laugh thinking about it.
Also behind the scenes and heavily involved are ASIO and Compink, the rebranded, image-softened (from red to pink) Communist Party of China Incorporated. It has corporate offices all over the world – Compink Australia, Italy and Brazil are listed on the stock exchange. The federal government can’t complain if an Aussie corporation wants to buy up infrastructure.
Of course, some of the staff overlap as employees and infiltrators, but we get the picture. As for the computer whizzes who have found a way to bypass focus groups, bring it on!
And if you encourage the public to all give the same answer in those endless opinion polls, the polls will be useless (and maybe they’ll stop ringing us all at dinnertime).
Could this all be coming to a place near you? I hope so. It’s sort of cooperative anarchy. We don’t lose track of which Ned Ludd is which, and we enjoy the romances and escapades.
It is the funniest book I’ve read in a long long time, and I hope young readers will take notes and push some of our stalled politics down this path.
I’ve got so many bookmarks stuck between pages, I gave up trying to copy anything. You must read it yourself!
A thousand thanks, or rather 2028 thanks, to Allen and Unwin for a copy of this wonderful book for review. I love it! (or can you tell?)