‘Behind every great fortune, lies a great crime.’

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burstyn

Review by Merilyn Moos

Originally written almost ten years ago, this prescient thriller considers the power of conglomerates. Its plot surrounds a plan hatched in America by the Greele conglomerate to drain water from Quebec to feed the drought ridden North-West of America.  To do this, land needs to be privately acquired, national and local politicians bought and media attention blocked.  No public or political consultation is acceptable.

Members of the State apparatus work hand in hand with the Greele consortium, greedy for profits and indifferent to the ecological catastrophe they are bringing into existence. Brystyn touches on the issues of separatism – Quebec is chosen by the Greele conglomerate because the Canadian establishment will turn a blind eye. She also fulminates against the process of private conglomerates taking over control of the water supply, a process of privatisation we are all too familiar with here.  The consequent lack of transparency is enforced by both the state and private goons with methods which are violent and scary. Burstyn throws in many other new developments in genetics and microbiology for our delectation and detestation. She terrifies in her description of the power now available to different eavesdropping organisations, ‘legal’ and otherwise.

But a number of Quebecian and American environmentalists get to hear of the plan and give their all in an attempt to stop the plan. The environmentalists are drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds, from professionals, politicians, maverick policemen to computer nerds. As Greele’s control is threatened and he resorts to ever more desperate methods, Brytyn’s shows us how key characters change sides. Brstyn’s also brings out how these environmentalists are defined as eco-terrorists, who can therefore be defined and arrested as a security risk, though the campaigners insist on never using violence of any form. (If there is anybody out there who hasn’t yet come across this sleight of hand whereby those trying to save the planet are accused of trying to destroy it, check out the legal cases brought against members of Plane Stupid and of a number of Camp/s against Climate Change.)

It will not surprise us that this is a thriller which does not have working class heroes or a sense of a wider class struggle!  But it is rare indeed to have such a keen eye turned on the growing water crisis in a popular form.  Large corporations and their ruthless drive for profitability are the unquestionable villains. Sometimes, the characters become stereotyped and occasionally, the book seems to lose its way. But, this is a lively read for those days when you are too exhausted from the class struggle and the battle to save the planet to peruse Das Kapital.

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