Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Secret Agent-Joseph Conrad (33rd book)

Wow for a book published in 1907 it has some suprisingly modern insights! I read this book because it is on the "1001 Books to Read Before You Die" List and I am slowly working my way through the list. I chose this book as the second one to read off the list because although it had a lot to say it sounded like an easy read. I wasn't wrong there. Although it took a bit to get into at the beginning, by the end it was a fast paced read that left you wondering how it was all going to end. The characters were very realistic and you understood their inner workings through their thoughts, actions and descriptions of their motivations.

Some of the eeirily accurate predictions included one about Doctors. "In two hundred years doctors will rule the world". Although I don't feel this is true in Canada...I can definitely see that this is applied to the US. With their private health care system and for profit health care prices have soared out of control and people live in utter fear of getting sick. Minor illnesses can bankrupt people and even something like having a baby is now a medical procedure that can cost upwards of $10,000. I thank God every day for the public health care system I am proud to pay into. For someone to make this observation in 1907 London is utterly amazing to me.

The books central plot revolves around a bombing attempt gone wrong. The rational behind the bombing, the terrorist elements in the attack and the secret government involvement all are a little too similar to modern day terrorist attacks. In chosing the target of the Greenwich Conservatory the planner behind the attack said that churches, and government buildings would have little effect but an attack on something that was an institute of science would have more sway. ON 9/11 terrorist chose to attack the twin towers which could be a modern day equivalen to the Greenwich Conservatory.

Lastly, I loved reading this book after my trip to London and the UK. I was so excited when Verloc, the main character in the book sat in Chesire Cheese (a city of London pub, rebuilt very shortly after the London fire). I was there when I was doing a Dicken's tour of London and I loved it with its low ceilings, labyrinthine corridors, cozy cubby holes and claustrophic feeling. It would definitely not pass modern day fire codes!

There was also a funny quote that amused me because of my Dr. Who obsession. One of the communists that Verloc hangs out with says, "Exterminate! Exterminate!" Which is something that the Daleks say in Dr. Who.

Although I didn't give this book a very high rating I did like the story and would recommend it to everyone. I read it on my ereader so it was a free read thanks to its early publish date.

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