In which I mistake satire for dystopian reality.
So I loved Cull by Tanvir Bush. I got this book on kindle through the Unbound Reading Club (it’s a very cool idea from an indie crowd-funded publisher – go click the link!!) and was intrigued as soon as I read the blurb.
A sharp and outrageous satire about the deadly dark side of discrimination. Alex has a problem. Categorized as one of the disabled, dole-scrounging underclass, she is finding it hard to make ends meet. When in her part-time placement at the local newspaper she stumbles onto a troubling link between the disappearance of several homeless people, the government’s new Care and Protect Act, and the Grassybanks Residential Home for the disabled, elderly and vulnerable, she knows she has to investigate further… but at what cost to herself and her guide dog Chris?
Ok, so I may have skipped over the first line – it wasn’t until after finishing it, and reading other reviews that I realised this was satirical but since I loved the book anyway, does that really matter?
My first thought when I started reading was that this was a dystopia, a contemporary – or very near future one. Now dystopias are one of my current favourite genres so I thought, a dystopia set in the UK with actual proper disability rep? Yes, please.
So I kept reading. I know some people have been put off slightly by the fact that a few chapters are written from Chris, Alex’s guide dog’s perspective but I actually loved it. It gave a different, lighter perspective on the horrifically serious topic Bush was actually writing about.
It also helped to build Alex’s character for me – she was overall quite isolated (self-imposed or otherwise) but she was able to create and maintain a happy, healthy relationship with someone else.
The worst thing about reading this book (and not realising it was satire) was that it felt far, far too real. For me, this was a dystopia that, given another few years of austerity and Tory government could be true – non-fiction instead of fiction as they say. Bush even has a government minister in the mould of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the despicable John Thorpe-Sinclair.
I loved the small acts of rebellion throughout the book like Mrs Honey’s way of dealing with her daughter’s loss of Carers’ Allowance and The Ladies Defective Agency.
I also really loved that this was a proper disability rep. There were happy endings for some but, there was never the suggestion of the “cured” trope which can be so easy for people to fall into by choice and by ignorance. Again it wasn’t until finishing and reading some bio things about Tanvir Bush that I found out it was also an #ownvoices rep as well so that was cool – and makes it kind of obvious as to why there wasn’t the “cured” trope in the book. And overall, despite happiness, or contentment for some – there is a clear ending showing that nothing in the novel actually made a difference, the tiny acts of rebellion and personal victories aside, the world kept going in the same way it was before the start of the action.
The book is horribly sad, because of how desolate it made me feel mostly because of the aforementioned realness; but I also laughed, and more often than not rolled my eyes at the actions of the government and other ableist characters.
I’m really glad I found this book; it’s a very well done depiction (ok satirical depiction) of some of the worst aspects of life in Britain today. But it was also quirky and creative in ways too.