Skin by Liam Brown

Skin is the third dystopian novel I’ve read recently so I feel like I’m on a dystopian roll at the moment but realise that the increase in dystopian fiction is due to the state of the world we’re living in which looks increasingly uncertain and bleak. In times of heightened uncertainty, a desire for control takes over and control is one of the key themes in Skin. Skin is the fourth book Liam Brown has published and it is an assured and confident read.

Skin is set in a future UK. A global virus has wiped out many populations and martial law prevails. It turns out that the virus is caused by touch as people have become allergic to other people’s skin dander. The only remedy for survival is to live in completely incubated sterilized rooms separate from family members. To ensure the population continues, women donate eggs to a fertility service that are artificially fertilised by donor sperm. People are not really allowed to venture outside as it is considered too dangerous, but if they do so, they must wear a full hazmat suit and spend time afterwards in a quarantine room at the entrance of their home.

We observe Angela, a middle aged mother of teenagers, the fitness crazed Amber and the surly computer obsessed Charlie. She works from home in marketing and her husband, Charlie works for a firm that creates virtual reality experiences for rich clients. They communicate once a day through a computer screen.

The prospect of having an opportunity to venture outside by joining the neighbourhood watch team is too great a chance for Angela to miss and she relishes the opportunity to do so. On one of her patrols she notices how much nature has taken over the ruined landscape of the city. She meets the rebel, Jazz or Jason Freeman, an alternative young man who lives in an abandoned school and wears no hazmat suit. Is he perhaps the answer the world has been looking for? A person immune to the deadly virus? I can’t really say anymore without giving the game away but I will say that this is a thrilling read that is beautifully written. It certainly brings up a lot of questions and is relevant to today’s society in that we are becoming an increasingly digitised world but levels of loneliness and social isolation are increasing too in kind. It seems the more connected we become to our screens the more disconnected we become from one another. This is a huge message that pervades through this book though there are others too that you’ll have to discover when you read it for yourself!

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Jo Cameron-Symes

I believe cultural criticism and analysis should be both accessible and help to further enrich peoples' lives. I have an MA from the University of York in the Sociology of Contemporary Culture and was previously the Chair of a regional charity for people with long term illness. During my time as Chair I noticed that the people I met who embraced culture and used it to enrich and explore their lives found that it enhanced their quality of life. Through accessing and exploring exhibitions, media and gardens that helped people including myself to cope with their current life situation.

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