The story revolves around the aftermath of an uprising by a group of people living on the edge of society who, forced to take desperate measures by the growing inequities within their society, are living as a separate community within an area they have taken over in the heart of the city, having found a means to hold the city to ransom.  The hardship of their former lives, which has led them to take such a drastic step. has also taught them not to mimic the values of their former society, a course which would only repeat fragmentation, and their unity in their common aim has made the Zone a thriving community within an outmoded community.  The status quo of peaceful if loveless co-existence starts to crumble when their leader attempts to gain acceptance and recognition by the Establishment - to make the Zone 'respectable' in Establishment terms.

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      Old review of my novel THE ZONE from bookpage book

      The theme of this novel is society breakdown. Very timely. People have been pushed to the point where they take their destiny into their own hands rather than continue to be shoved around and sidelined by the political-corporate-power-machine. Rebellion and the search for change against the creeping social pressures is going on everywhere at the present time, in one form or another. That's why it grabbed me. And there's an edge to this treatment - the rebels get it right for once: in matters of living in harmony and dignity, in rising above the level of ratrace competition, in rejecting the programming that if you can't compete in order to survive then you're a reject, they demonstrate their superiority to the Establishment and its values. If you don't get much time away from your TV. or if you're a loyal member of the Establishment in matters of maintaining the status quo, if you prefer to continue sleepwalking because it's more comfortable than waking up, this book is not for you. It seems to me Langford has recognized that something's about to give - that it is already giving - on a major scale in society today, that it can't go on forever touting the same standards that are driving people to desperation, that it's not impossible for protest to mean advance to a more civilized way of thinking. Protest leading to revolution leading to the installation of a new leader who, beneath his fatigues, has not shifted far from Establishment values, is no longer workable. Revolution has to accompany an evolution in basic thinking. We have to de-programme ourselves. It's time for evolution, not more revolution.

      The story itself develops around the fatal flaw theme, one that leads, in a razor-edge situation like this, to a toxic mix of betrayal and disaster. Langford's images and the vivid style that carry it along are memorable. Well worth a read.

      THE ZONE by Barbara Langford


      Opening Paragraph, Chapter One:

      He still couldn't get the images out of his head. Their linked arms, forced apart as they sought to flee the pounding of the water-cannon, their shock as they fell, dragging themselves up only to be dashed down again, their white-lipped children, drenched and screaming and running in haphazard patterns, falling blind with water and terror. He saw the orange tarpaulins of their camp collapsing beneath the weight of the water, the makeshift beds and mattresses exposed and drenched; toys and cooking pans sent flying. The rare togetherness that had warmed them for a brief spell with the spirit of kinship and hope had been replaced by the now-familiar routing, by the desperate flight for survival, by the fragmentation that led back to the alleys, to isolation and to loneliness, their possessions left scattered and abandoned beneath the slow drizzle of an early morning rain. The face of Jake, champion of their cause, passed before him again. It was a face that had gone from the steadfast dignity that reflected his innocent belief that their rights would be honoured to the distorted anguish of his cries as he had urged his followers to flee, his large, imposing frame in the familiar overalls and wide-brimmed felt hat resisting uselessly, shoved and dragged between two cops towards the arrest bus. The images had stayed with him, bled with him since his arrest during the fracas and the days in jail before his hearing this morning. They had all been arrested, all the residents of the warehouse community who had gone to give their support that morning to the tight, stubborn band of homeless. The homeless were now back on the streets, their leader vanished without trace, along with their hope. The bleakness of their situation fringed his thoughts like a plea as he lay on the mattress on the floor of his tiny, cluttered studio.

      From Chapter Three:

      Thrown against the darkened sky the tableau of images discharged themselves, fragments of the once-proud skyline of the centre of the City, their disarray gigantesque and imprisoning. The shapes of the mannequins cast atop the piles of debris looked eerily alive in the wan cast of the moonlight, regarding him with a sinister tranquillity, their limbs broken, their smile fixed. The colonnaded white marble piazzas of reception lobbies with their soaring, sculptured pillars and the vaulting grace of a Baroque church were now transformed into amputated stumps protruding a convulsion of stark intensity raging blasphemy against the quiet, open void of the night sky. The smooth-rounded alabaster side of one of the silver-filigreed fountains that had once played rondelays through limpid tropical greenery and changing colours in variance with celestial-sounding chords now glinted in innocent travesty of themselves, half-buried in the moonlight. The towering shards of concrete and broken stone images along his path dwarfed him as he moved, dwarfed his courage, captured his breath and froze his resolve.

      From the surrounding blocks and like a growing incursion upon his isolation a tide of noise rising, then a flash of light a short distance away, illuminating a punk in full regalia. The mounting tide was engulfing him in wave upon wave of encroaching voices unrestrained and liberated, voices expressing an energy that surged around him like a spirit freed but still soured from lock and subjugation. Threads of madness ran through the voices as they wove one through another in an ever-intensifying game of pursuit, a game that exerted a strange, disquieting pull on him. A moment's silence, then a low, wavering moan. At the same time a thud and the crash of something against the side of a building close to him. Fading steps, then a slow, dying wail, then the electric silence again. Out of the nightmare choreography a call, raising itself, cutting across the silence with an eerie tone like a flatted, damaged musical note, joined by other calls falling into formation like drops of hot lead and locking into a tight chant; the chant intensified as its pitch rose higher and higher, building itself within a framework of long, measured beats until, in one climactic burst, it exploded into a crescendo of crazy laughter. The soft, dull thump of running footsteps. . .