The following is a coped-and-pasted review from a Hungarian lady, Tunde' Nagy, who very kindly went to the trouble of painstakingly translating her review into English for me. (Her idea. I wouldn't dream of asking her to do such a thing.) While a few language errors are obvious, her points and feelings are clear enough, and my deepest thanks for her consideration and efforts.
- Andrew Hawcroft
HAWCROFT, Andrew, Forces.
"What does it take to change the nature of a person?” (3) – asks the narrator right on the
first line of the novel. It is not easy to answer to this complex question and we can find many
similar questions in Forces. Hawcroft wrote his novel for teenagers, but I am sure that adults
will not be bored during reading his artwork either.
Forces takes place in the time of BBC News, Wikipedia, Youtube, in the time which is
known by everyone, in the time, when the technology, television, mobile and smart phones
conquer the human mind in such an extent that people hardly can make relevant decisions,
keep a family together or simply be happy for their life. It is not a coincidence that the author
uses and emphasizes those channels, since the narrator not just place his story in a relevant
decade as a background (which is close to us and we know it as the back of our hand), but he
uses their functions at the same time. The BBC for example helps to show, what is happening
in the wide world, out of the Red Corners.
The main character of the story is John Clay, he looks like an ordinary hero. He lives his
early adult, late teenage life and this two „lifes” perfectly reflect in his behaviour, since he is
the leader of the Red Liners and also the son of Sherry and Ted Clay. He is absolutely suited
for the leader position both phisically and mentally, however sometimes we encounter the
vague and desperate little boy who feels the danger of this lifestyle and he knows that people
cannot live like this forever, because there might be serious consequences. This is one of the
reasons why John has a huge fear of getting into jail. He even consideres to join the police
which would provide him safety and protection, but he is too afraid that they might discover
his past and in the end his nightmare would become reality.
John has two families and as a matter of fact he has a leader position in both. His
biological family is somewhere at the bottom of society, their house smells from cigarette and
alcohol, they might have never seen healthy food and they entertain themselves in front of
the television watching idiotic tv-shows. They literally live next to each other. Despite of all
John’s reprehensible acts, he seems to be the most normal character, since he is not interested
in tv-shows, he likes to think about more important things, hundreds of thoughts crosses his
mind constantly and he would like to break out of the bubble. As the leader of the Red Liners
he takes care about the gang and he always finds something to do with them. Even though
they steal and rob, they never hurt anyone and avoid any drugs. He chose this „family” and
they stick together instinctly, protect and watch over each other, even when they make jokes
or tease others in the gang.
The story has an interesting turn of events when the members of the Red Liners break into
the Carrington’s museum and all of them steals certain things. Not just the life and destiny of
the gang changes but whole London becomes a part of an apocaliptic vision and everything is
on the bum. John, the confident leader slowly becomes a desperate teenager, his weeknesses
show themselves and that is when PC Haines and Rupert appear. They are the completely
positive representatives of the adults, John himself is also suprised by them, since he is not
used to normal adult people. The officer and Rupert help John to pull through the crazy events
and find a solution to the problems.
Forces examines many important questions which appear in all areas of our lifes, but I
think, the most crucial subjects are the ones regarding lifestyle. Readers encounter many
times with people’s comfortable life which simply got used to the triumvirate of „work-sofa-
television”. Due to the apocaliptic events this picture starts to change. Joe’s diatribe shows
this, when the members of the Red Liners start to slowly disappear. He shouts to John that he
would like to do nothing else but calmly sit on the sofa watching the television.
I could underline many valuable thoughts from Forces, since both the genre and the story
shows the complexity of the novel. In this fast-paced world, in the tangled web of events,
we might really need an apocaliptic boom to see the important things in our life and what we
need to appreciate and value day by day. Andrew Hawcroft reveals the importance of the tiny
things which we just go by every single day and if we had a chance to understand and notice
them we might never let them out of our hands.