Book: Paul Johnston’s ‘Body Politic’ – in an independent Scotland ‘IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH’

With the mounting attention being paid to the vote on Scottish Independence it reminded me of two  books that were sitting at the bottom of the “possible charity shop” pile – Paul Johnston’s ‘Body Politic’ and ‘The Bone Yard’.

These are the first two books in a series of five – the remaining three being ‘water of death’, ‘the blood tree’ and ‘the house of dust’. I found the first two abandoned at a train station and felt sorry for them, so I rehomed them.

The vote on Scottish independence is due to take place on the 18th September 2014 and has been dumbed down to avoid confusion; the question is “should Scotland be an independent country” with Yes or No being the only options.

body politic paul johnston

I haven’t been able to work out how you can have a vote on this without there being an actual plan as to how it could be achieved in the event of a win by the “yes” vote.

Having a sensible and considered plan would be a bonus, but currently there isn’t even a half-assed plan, so I guess the vote happens and in the event of a “yes” win then they will make it up as they go along, trying not to ruin their fragile economy – and taking their fair share of the current UK national debt.

So the books are set in 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland has broken away from the UK and the world economy has fallen into ruin following seemingly-endless wars and drug problems.

Edinburgh is tightly run by a council of Guardians with the support of auxiliaries – a glorified police force who are referred to by their uniform number rather than their names. The aim was for a society modelled on Plato’s ‘Republic’ (which the books keep mentioning!)  with no crime, a large number of forbidden activities and strict controls on the few things that aren’t illegal.

So naturally the rulers are somewhat corrupt and the underbelly is rank & diseased – much like a Soviet-era satellite state.


(Photo from Wakeup-world)

The main character is a detective called Quintilian Dalrymple, in the first book he officially works for Park Services and moonlights as a detective; to be honest he isn’t terribly good and seems to get lucky rather than competent.

The first book won at least one award, the ‘John Creasey memorial dagger for the best first crime novel of the year’ and it isn’t a bad book really. The second one is less interesting and wanders into odd territory. Both are a little graphic in places in ways that don’t add to the plot.

The books also aren’t as intelligent as I think the author wants the reader to think, however for the sheer amusement value of painting a picture of an independent Scotland formed with utopian vision only to fall into the same sin and filth as the rest of the world – but with none of the freedoms, is amusing.

Ultimately Johnston’s first two books are a poor man’s ‘1984’ containing nothing that tops the Ministry of Truth for a truly damning vision of the future – ‘IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH’ indeed.

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