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The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith
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The Miracle Inspector (edition 2012)

by Helen Smith

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419285,656 (3.75)2
Member:needtoreadgottowatch
Title:The Miracle Inspector
Authors:Helen Smith
Info:Tyger Books (2012), Paperback, 252 pages
Collections:Would Buy Print Copy, Would Buy As E-Book, Your library, Favorites
Rating:****
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The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith

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Review Kinda,sort of,maybe:

The Miracle Inspector can only be described as a very British Dystopian. I imagined the lovely Helen Mirren narrating this in my head. Once I switched from my normal internal monologue to that with her narrating The Miracle Inspector transformed into quite an enjoyable read. Of course that is not to say that this book didn't have some hiccups along the way.

To me, The Miracle Inspector was part V for Vendetta part Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (minus the alien aspect). The Miracle Inspector's Dystopian elements were terrifying yet it had whimsy and humor about it. I found this mix to be odd and unsettling at times. It's really hard describing in detail without giving away to much of the premise.

On the other hand,The Miracle Inspector is so far left field of what I expected it to be that I'm not even sure how to write a proper review of it. Was the book good? Sure, the writing was lovely and I found the characters to be quite charming. However, the plot and all of the rules felt beyond excessive, downright crazy even. I'm all for Dystopians that push the barriers of society but the Miracle Inspector didn't just push its citizens it shoved them over the cliff. Then, when they hit bottom they made them get up and walk back up the cliff only to be pushed off again. Yes it was that bizarre. I think the Author pulled it off but then again with the way I'm struggling writing this maybe it wasn't as successful as originally assumed.

Overall, I'm really not sure how I feel about The Miracle Inspector. If it wasn't for the writing and of course imagining Helen Mirren narrating in my head, I don't know how enjoyable it would of been. I am not even sure who I'd recommend this one to or if I'd recommend it at all it was just so bizarre. I mean hell, I can barely even comprehend what I read myself as you can clearly see. Therefore, I am going to list this one as a read at your own risk. I won't dissuade you from doing so because some elements were worthwhile but I won't encourage you either. Think of me as Switzerland on this one. In the end, I will be rating The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith ★★★.

*I was given a copy of this to review from the Author. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way for providing them. ( )
  Hermyoni | Mar 21, 2013 |
The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith takes place 30 years in the future. London is no longer a democracy, but run by dictators. This future is misogynistic and patriarchal. Women are not allowed to leave their homes (unless visiting female relatives), must wear a burqa when opening the door (or at any other point where they can be seen by people other than their husbands), are not allowed to work, have no rights or education and must ask their husbands for permission for anything they do. A woman is not allowed to use contraception or have a drink without her husband's permission.

There are no schools, children must always be kept inside, men are the only ones who venture past their front doors with any frequency. Once they reach a certain age, men are taken away and never seen again, while women are left to slowly fade away behind closed doors. All these changes were put into effect as men believed it would keep women and children safe from pedophiles, rapists and terrorists. Those three things pushed the city into ruin. There are no planes and the only transport is by car, ship or train. The only people who have cars work for the government- who also police all other means of travelling. Some try to leave, but the possibility of escape is infinitesimal and no one is ever heard of again. The best way to survive is to keep your head down and not ask questions. Create safety out of anonymity.

Lucas works for the Ministry. After the change, divisions were set up for everything, some vital, some pointless. This way they hope to monitor everything. So there are Inspectors of Cats, of Women, of Flowers and then there's Lucas- who is the Inspector of Miracles. Miracles in this future are just as unlikely as in our world, perhaps even more so, but in the new legislation it was decided that "the right to believe in miracles was enshrined in the constitution. And if a miracle is to be believed in collectively, then first it has to be found." So now Lucas spends his days being called out to various "miracles", whether they be claims of the new Messiah or the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast.

Every night he comes home to his young wife, Angela, and they sit in silence. Occasionally, words will pass between them, but for the most part, their marriage is just as bleak as the world they live in. They love each other, but their communication skills are almost non-existent. Lucas claims, "their relationship was also about the silences." He believes they reach each other on a deeper level. This may be true, but there's a constant tension between them. Words go unspoken. As Lucas puts it, "he was too preoccupied with keeping his thoughts hidden, to worry about hers." He constantly fears he'll say the wrong thing, so ends up never saying anything at all.

Lucas' thoughts are written in an odd, almost disjointed style, that perfectly emulates how thoughts occur in the mind. Some don't make sense, are completely irrelevant and utterly nonsensical. We basically get every thought that pops into his head, which is more realistic than the edited thoughts we normally read. It's a hard thing to make work, but it matches the humour and tone of the story very well. There's this odd mix of a very dark world and plot, combined with light and sometimes very British humour. A lot of the lines have very dead-span delivery. For instance, there's a situation where three men are drinking Ribena. Apparently, Ribena has been found to increase a man's life span and his libido. Lucas decides the men must do it for the latter reason, as men don't survive long enough to have to worry about the former.

Meanwhile, Angela is a very lonely and bored woman (for understandable reasons). She spends all day at home and sees and speaks to almost no one, except Lucas- who barely speaks to her at all. Then one day an old poet by the name of Jesmond drops off his life story in her hands. He's famous for his rebellious poems and songs and was close to Lucas' father. But, Lucas doesn't want to see him, so Angela is the one he always visits. When he drops off letters and poems from his past, she can't resist reading them.

But Angela wants to get away. When she brings it up with Lucas, he suggests Cornwall (because he thinks he should say something, but doesn't really expect her to say yes). She agrees and begs him to get them out, take them to Cornwall to start a family and live a free life. The situation in London may be dire, but the rest of the world is as it is now. For the most part, it is a free world (depending on where you are) and a utopia to Londoners. This is the basic plot of the story. Getting to Cornwall. Why Cornwall, because all Londoners want to go on holiday to Cornwall.

Lucas, on the other hand, begins fantasising about other men's wives. Almost every other thought is about sex, almost to a distracting level. There's no point to it and it doesn't go anywhere. After a while, it gets a little irritating, but the story constantly switches between him, Angela and Jesmond. At least for a little while. So it's bearable. As we see more of his character, there is also this uneasy quality about it. He has such a desperate existence, that he feels very much like a man who could go over the edge at any moment. He cares for very little, but then that keeps you safe in this future. He is too young to know what freedom was like, he grew up with this oppressive regime, so I wouldn't be surprised if everyone was the same. Perhaps it's more noticeable with him because we're seeing his thoughts.

Jesmond gets small sections in the book, but for the most part he's unrelated to the plot. He is rallying up a rebellion with his underground poetry- where the androgynous look is all the rage. It's more than a fashion statement, it's a way for women to stay safe and men to show solidarity with them. Baggy clothes hide figures, women keep themselves thin to create a flatter silhouette. They keep their hair short, while men grow it long and keep themselves clean-shaven. This way women can pass as men in the right circles.

Half-way through the book, the situation changes. The story is told more and more through increasingly fractured thoughts. There'a good reason for it, but saying more would spoil it. The effect it gives is great. It creates the atmosphere, builds the tension and causes a growing sense of fear to develop.

The pace quickens exponentially. What starts out as quite a slow book, suddenly becomes a race to the finish line. It's hard not to give anything away, but if you read it you'll understand. So much happens in the second-half. Everything starts falling together and then falling apart.

I would almost say that the second-half of the book is an entirely different story than the first. They are connected through the main characters, but everything else changes. The book really comes into its own in the second-half. The first-half is almost irrelevant. The characters become more real and more important to the reader. In the first-half I was almost apathetic towards the characters, but when they reach the second-half, suddenly I was on the edge of my seat willing them on. Somewhere between the first and second-half, a switch is flipped and everything changes. The second-half will be what I remember of this book, it will be the reason I tell people to read it, it will be what makes me read it again. I will go through the slow, irrelevant first-half time and time again to reach the wonderful second-half.

Like I said before, the pace changes unbelievably quickly and the ending hits you before you know it. I loved the ending. It's very ambiguous, but brilliant. There are so many questions that appear throughout the story and you don't really get answers to any of them. That may annoy some readers, but I found it all the more gripping and all the more realistic. Life doesn't have all the answers. There are some things we will never know. The ending can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. There's no clarity and we don't really know what happened. I didn't know whether to feel happy or sad, empty or complete. Those unanswered questions, will keep the story and its characters with you, long after the final word.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own. ( )
  needtoreadgottowatch | Feb 25, 2013 |
THE MIRACLE INSPECTOR is a story about a futuristic London which has become a dictatorship and women are basically sequestered in the home, as men go to work. Everyone is watched by the government and people can simply disappear. It is an interesting idea and the mechanics of the story are there, but to me there was no heart in the story.
To me, the story was dry and unengaging. I felt no connections to any of the characters and at times I felt some things went on too long, while at others I wanted to learn more. When the ending came, it was just there. Numerous questions remained unanswered. Had I picked this book up in JosepthBeths, I would have read a few pages and left it.

I received a copy from the author in exchange for a review. ( )
  Teritree001971 | Jan 4, 2013 |
Review:

Helen Smith's The Miracle Inspector blew me away with its bleak and gnarled view of the future and its fear-driven inhabitants! The book blurb may seem somewhat unconventional, but this disturbing dystopian thriller's look into the fractured, chaotic, and desecrate future of Britain grabbed my attention at page one. I did not expect to be so intrigued by Helen Smith's well-placed prose, full of startling depictions as well as biting, yet somehow lyrical, humor. Her ability to create such a believable tale of paranoia and hopelessness is built on some of the most debilitating fears plaguing today's societies - terrorists, rapists, murderers, pedophiles, corrupt governments, abusers, etc... Everyone watches everyone else, but is helpless to stop what they see - and escape is futile. Aspects of the overall plot are eerily reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, 1984, and Brave New World, three of my favorite high-school reads; however, it is by no means stagnant or unoriginal. There is a lot less action than I had hoped for, but it makes up for it with vivid and well-developed characters and dialogue, especially where Angela and Lucas are concerned. This book is intense and leaves readers with more questions than answers, but it is well worth the read. Recommended for more mature audiences who enjoy a book that gets them thinking.

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. ( )
  Allizabeth | Nov 2, 2012 |
The Miracle Inspector
By Helen Smith

In the near future, London has become an oppressive society, one in which women are not allowed out of the home to work or even socialize with other women. Lucas and Angela is a young couple who have become restless in this society, Angela is tired of being a captive in her own home while Lucas is tired of working as the miracle inspector and facing day in and day out of women fabricating miracles just so they can have some company. Soon they decide they will try to escape London throwing them into more conflicts then they had imagined.

Helen Smith writes novels with a wicked sense of humor; anywhere from dark humor to crude nothing is safe when Helen Smith begins a novel. This novel is a little different with a lot less of the absurd content, though it is not what I expected from the author I found myself falling in love with this story. Now granted, I am a sucker for a dystopian novel, but this novel is so realistic it is scary. The women are sheltered from the cruel world and the dangerous men who live in it they are not beaten or abused just sheltered to the point they are not allowed to leave the house. Unlike many dystopian novels this one does not lean towards the extreme or the science fiction making it unique and definitely an interesting read.

For More Reviews be sure to visit my blogs at:
http://reflectionsofabookworm.wordpress.com/
http://bookwormrflects8.blogspot.com/ ( )
  BookWormRflects | Oct 1, 2012 |
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