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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

Hesketh Lock is a unique figure in the world of anthropology; his Asperger's syndrome allows him to objectively analyse patterns in human behaviour that others overlook. He is never short of work as big businesses take advantage of his talents to assess their employees' habits in order to maximise their profits. While investigating an unusual case of whistleblowing and sabotage in a factory in Taiwan, Hesketh becomes aware of bizarre news reports from home. What starts as an isolated incident of parricide becomes a global epidemic as young children all over the world turn inexplicably against their loved ones. As his own stepson Freddy begins to exhibit increasingly sinister behaviour, Hesketh must use all his expertise to try to get to the bottom of this most disturbing phenomenon.
Liz Jensen has impressed me before with The Ninth Life Of Louis Drax and The Rapture, so I was pleased to finally get around to reading this latest offering which was published in 2012. Here, Jensen revisits the dystopian, apocalyptic themes of The Rapture, but handles them in a far more understated manner. If you're looking for a straightforward horror novel with creepy zombie children and gratuitous gore you won't find it here. Instead, we explore how a community might react under pressure to a truly inexplicable and sinister global threat.

Hesketh is a strong lead character and it is easy to empathise with him. I liked that he is a well-developed character in his own right rather than simply a one-dimensional caricature of Asperger's syndrome as I have sometimes found in other novels - neither overbearingly 'quirky' nor an emotionless robot. Instead, we see how his Asperger's affects him in more subtle ways and how his analytical habits lead him to see situations slightly differently from the majority, which really added to my enjoyment of the book. I liked that as panic sets in we see mob mentality prevail globally, with people treating the children like feral animals, but Hesketh is one of the very few people who shows a semblance of humanity, trying to continue caring for Freddy as best he can.

I was pleased to find that Jensen doesn't tie all the plot strings up in one neat and tidy bow. The premise is so far-fetched and outrageous that to have a flawless conclusion would have been far too convenient and implausible, in my opinion. However, it is worth bearing in mind if you're considering picking this one up, as I know many readers aren't satisfied with an ambiguous ending.

This really is a disaster novel with a difference. An unusual and thoughtful little book that I enjoyed very much.


  1. This book has an interesting premise. I had not heard of this author. Very nice review.

  2. This sounds really good, thanks for reviewing, had never heard of this or indeed the author before.

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net