Bold as Love (novel)
Cover of Gollancz first edition
|Series||Bold As Love Sequence|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
|LC Class||PR6060.O5163 B65 2001|
|Followed by||Castles Made of Sand|
Bold As Love, first published in 2001, is the first of a series of five books written by Gwyneth Jones and set in a near-future version of the United Kingdom. The full title of the novel is Bold as Love: a Near Future Fantasy. It combines elements of science fiction, fantasy and horror while dealing with issues of gender, politics, and environmental concerns. The subject matter refers heavily to popular music.
Ax Preston, a mixed-race guitarist from Taunton, having survived a government-organised massacre of the official Green Party (under cover of a pop-culture reception à la "Cool Britannia" in Hyde Park), emerges from the ensuing chaos as the true leader England desperately needs. He and his friends, also Indie musicians, tackle an outrageous series of disasters, including a minor war with Islamic Separatists in Yorkshire, and a hippie President who turns out to be a murdering paedophile. In the background the whole of Europe is falling apart, in the foreground there are rock festivals, street-fighting; a rampage of "Green" destruction (led and moderated by Preston) leaving a trail of burned-out hypermarkets, wrecked fast food outlets, and vast expanses of napalmed intensive farming. Ax Preston’s triumph is that he brings his country through the crisis — by guile, self-sacrifice, stubborn goodwill and of course the power of the music — more or less intact. In England, the revolution never descends into a terror.
By labelling the book "a near-future fantasy" Jones puzzled and divided the critics. Perhaps "a once and future fantasy" would have been more informative, because this is an Arthur story remapped for the Twenty-First Century. Instead of the cult of glory of mediaeval romance, the preoccupation is Utopian. How to build the Good State, in the grip of a global economic crash and an eco-revolution? Determined not to take over the government, Ax institutes free education to reclaim the illiterate children of the hippie hordes; the "Volunteer Initiative" that gets people cleaning hospital floors alongside the celebrities; and an ingenious system of "trading in surpluses", to feed the newly destitute. Ax is aware that what he’s attempting would be impossible, were it not for the spectre of bloody anarchy on one hand, and on the other the glamour and the orgiastic release of the great Crisis Management concerts. But "people will do any thing, no limit, if it’s seen to be normal, and the role-models say it's okay...". If he can keep his Utopian programme going, somehow, just for a few years, something will survive.
Aside from the breakneck pace and a playful, audacious style, the novel's strength (as many critics have observed) is the characterisation of the principals:[original research?] Ax Preston, Sage Pender, and especially Fiorinda (real name, Frances), the teenage "rock and roll princess" with a hideous past. These three, a triad straight from genre fantasy, are marvellously brought to life, illuminating a rather formal, fiercely intelligent novel with joyous power.