Thanks to Netgalley and Hemisphere Publishing for the ARC!
J’s VERDICT: ☆☆☆1/2
It is the year 2196. Religion is outlawed, genuinely thought to be nothing but problematic or the product of insanity. Because of this, the world, as you or I know it now in 2019, has collapsed. From its ashes rises a new world order, The Republic, the sole surviving state of the new world, and – of course – the resistance.
Welcome to Michael Francis McDermott’s ambitious, sprawling epic debut novel IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER. It begins by tearing into a dystopian world like a bat out of hell. Your only option is to grab a hold of something and come along for the ride.
Beyond its fiercely propulsive opening chapters, the novel slows down. It sputters a little, taking its time to find its rhythm, and learning about the history of how things came to be feels more like exposition being dropped rather than arising organically, but the novel gets there in the end, finding a cosy groove between energetic action and engaging drama.
It’s opening chapters feel familiar, I must admit. The world is split into sectors, there’s an all-powerful governing force and a small resistance, but Michael Francis McDermott has his own agenda. He has his own voice and he intends to deliver upon the concept he establishes. It’s different enough, for me, that I continued to read. Intrigued by what would come next.
His writing style has the engaging action like Matthew Reilly with all the imagination of Suzanne Collins and all the tenderness of John Marsden’s Tomorrow, When The War Began. As I said, he channels the spirit of such authors but he comes into his own, especially as the novel goes on and the world is fleshed out and establishes his themes.
I mean, a world without religion? Just think about that for a moment. Think about the chaos, think about the violence the world has carried out in the name of religion – for years. What would happen if religion all around the world was eradicated? What would the world fight about then? What would that mean for people? And what does that mean for a reader who has faith? Do we assume or hope the novel has a fantastical element to it? What if it doesn’t have a fantastical element, what does that mean? Talk about an existential crisis.
Michael Francis McDermott, thankfully, paints the world in shades of grey. You get to see both sides of the conflict, from characters within The Republic – some sane, some fanatical – to the resistance and their reasons for fighting. As a reader, you get the whole picture, which I was satisfied with.
I just wish the novel had a glossary, featuring a list of characters and a timeline and a map. As this is an ARC, I cannot say whether such an aspect will be included but I think that given the cast of characters and locations, both a map of some areas and list of characters with a brief description, would be add to the immersion of the novel.
Ultimately, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER is an impressive debut, with some strong ideas that drive the plot along. It is a long novel that often feels slow and some delivery of story beats feel more clunky than organic but Michael Francis McDermott displays a talent for writing set pieces, characters and action and I do believe there’s a bright future ahead for him.
In The Name Of The Father is out MARCH 26TH. Highly recommended if you enjoy thought-provoking dystopian fiction!