READING MAGGIE GEE'S latest novel is a bit like being trapped in a hall of mirrors: everything is familiar but distorted. The city she describes - a thinly veiled London - is on the brink of collapse after months of rain, while the President, Mr Bliss, wages war abroad in an effort to create peace. The tower blocks that house the poor are so flooded that they can be reached only by boat, but people still go about their business as usual. They read the Daily Atom and listen to Lil Missy M and The Three Bones; books published by the likes of Headstone and Third Dimension complete for the Iceland Prize: and the rich, who are still quite secure in their houses on the hills, wear Rollon watches and sport Parade purses. Gee certainly had a lot of fun writing this book: for an angry novel that tackles segregation and social injustice, it does have a remarkable, if slightly self-indulgent, lightness of touch.
Gee's authorly games don't stop with inventing playful new names. She has also transported a range of characters from her earlier books into the future in this sodden city, notably the surviving members of the White family from her 2002 novel of that name, and Lottie and Harold from her