Book Review: The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith

The Miracle Inspector by Helen SmithAs you might know, I love dystopian fiction. I even made a post about it, with adult dystopia novels (as opposed to YA dystopia, which is much better known to a lot of people). When it comes to dystopia, I prefer a situation that is in the near future, and not too far removed from our current situation – that usually makes it even more scary!

The Miracle Inspector: What it is about

In The Miracle Inspector, I guess we are about 50 years in the future, in London, England. Women can’t work outside the home and cannot go anywhere except to the shops and to family (there is an official at the Ministry to check out people’s family relationships to make sure women are really visiting relations and not strangers or friends).

Lucas has a good job at the Ministry as a miracle inspector. When a miracle is being reported, he goes to check it out. So far, no genuine miracles have been found, although the public do their best to make up their own miracles (the face of the Virgin Mary in a flan, etc.).

Lucas is a well-off man, with his own car, a rarity in London, and a nice house. His wife is Angela, a clever woman, but stuck to a boring life at their home. The couple make plans to escape to Cornwall, where they would be free, but they need passes to get there. Their attempt to escape London lead to serious consequences for Lucas and Angela.

The Miracle Inspector: What I thought

This book reminded me of The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) to start with, because of the restrictions to women. These were society’s restrictions, and within their marriage, Lucas didn’t feel it was right that a woman like Angela had to spend all her time at home. On the other hand, he was a product of his society, so I didn’t feel completely comfortable with the way he thought about their situation.

Later on, the book had some elements of The Carhullan Army (Sarah Hall). But while there were similarities with that book and with The Handmaid’s Tale, The Miracle Inspector was definitely a unique book in its own right.

I loved how the society’s rules were made up by the people themselves. At some point, people were allowed to make the laws and some very odd regulations followed. Many of the rules were formed based on three (perceived) threats: everyone was a potential terrorist, rapist, or paedophile. Because of terrorists, people could not freely travel; because of rapists, women should not leave the house; and because of paedophiles, hardly any schooling existed any more. In London, there was a rumour that in Spain, pre-school children were often looked after by their grandparents during the day (when the Spanish women worked). But this was considered very unlikely, as you could hardly trust even the children’s own fathers with their kids, let alone the grandparents!

So, there were a lot of funny things in this book, but the plot is more serious. Angela discovers that life on the other side of the (London) fence isn’t so great everywhere either, and at some point she wishes she was safely back at home. The book’s ending is somewhat open, but it doesn’t take too much imagination to think what would happen next.

The world Angela and Lucas were living in seemed well thought-out, and I would have loved to know more about Cornwall, the place (besides Australia) that every Londoner wanted to escape to.

The book was well-written and a pleasure to read. If this was a children’s book, there would definitely be a sequel. Even so, I secretly hope there will be one, or a least another book based on the same dystopian world.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 248

First published: 2010 (Tyger Books, UK)

I got this book: for review from the author

Genre: science fiction, dystopia


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About Judith
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22 Responses to Book Review: The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith

  1. I haven’t read this one yet, but I did read Smith’s Alison Wonderland, which I loved. It’s always good to see an adult dystopian, particularly one that’s near future and that deals with our own present-day concerns–as all good science fiction should!

  2. cbjames says:

    That does sound a lot like The Handmaid’s Tale. But I am glad to see reviews for adult fiction like this. Thanks.

  3. This does sound good, but I’m a bit concerned about your comparisons – I wasn’t a big fan of The Handmaid’s Tale (writing too distant) or Carhullan Army (plot didn’t go anywhere). Does this have an engaging plot?

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jackie, the book is nothing like The Handmaid’s Tale in terms of writing. I liked the writing style in *The Miracle Inspector* a lot. I think the plot doesn’t go quite as far as one might prefer, but it hints at this and that, and between the lines there is a really good story. Just as I like it.

  4. I really enjoy Dystopian books too and it seems I dont get to them very often…*sigh* This one looks good!

    • Leeswammes says:

      I love dystopia, Sheila, but somehow I don’t search it out much. I should start actively looking for this type of book because I tend to love it.

  5. Charlie says:

    First I was thinking how awful, but the way the rules were created at least makes some sense, even if the results aren’t at all good. You’ve got me wondering if society ever lessens its extreme paranoia. Scary setting, 50 odd years!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Charlie, the story made sense. A group of citizens (with very little sense) took charge to make up the rules. I think the idea that our paranoia of paedophiles, terrorists and rapists might lead to extremes is very interesting.

  6. Mystica says:

    Sounds such a creepy scenario. Must be a horrible way to live too.

  7. Alex says:

    I also prefer adult dystopia to YA, the best one I read recently is The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (have you read it?).

    • Leeswammes says:

      Alex, I have a copy of The Windup Girl. I must say, I forgot about it a bit – I *really* wanted to read it last year, but never got round to it. Thanks for reminding me.

  8. Adding to my wishlist, sounds like something I would love.

  9. Chinoiseries says:

    Sounds like a scary book! I was just thinking about The Handmaid’s Tale when you mentioned it 🙂

  10. Definitely one for my dystopian wishlist, Judith. Thanks, it sounds great.

  11. This sounds very intriguing and, in many ways, quite timely. Here in the U.S. we’ve seen changes in civil liberties in the wake of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. And gender roles seem to be at the forefront right now, with elections stirring up controversy over women’s rights issues. I loved A Handmaid’s Tale, which I read in college, and this might be my cup of tea, too. Thanks for the great review, Judith.

  12. Pingback: Book Review - THE MIRACLE INSPECTOR by Helen Smith

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