Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Anthony Gardner’s Fox

FoxAs well (obviously) as the title, I love the premise of this curious and farcical dystopian novel. As a disastrous consequence of banning hunts, foxes are over-running British towns and cities. As well as getting so much out of control that they’re actually taking the meat off barbecues, they carry a virus fatal to humans, and the Prime Minister is importing an apparent vaccine that actually delivers a mass-surveillance system at cellular level so he can keep the restless British population under observation. It’s smart, plausible and fascinatingly possible, with great potential for a frightening thriller, but is divided from the beginning.

The fox depredation plot with its attendant hunting set of characters is too Jilly Cooper to be more than a rather ridiculous joke, and loses moral ground to the scary injection plot. This is more serious, wrapped around a persecuted Christian sect, a thrilling escape from mainland China in Cold War circumstances, and the chilling prospect of mass surveillance through mass vaccination. Both plotlines could work together with some careful nuancing but the over-large cast of characters and their proliferating subplots weigh the whole thing down unevenly. Fox lurches madly from one point of view to another, leaving the reader scrabbling for tonal connections. The strands of plots do come together in a satisfying way, so I have no problem with Gardner’s plotting skills: I just wish he had cut the cast by half and spent more time with those characters.

Many of the characters seem rather self-indulgent, easily read as supporting a dyspeptic vision of what is going to go wrong with Britain if things carry on as they are now. These range from the grim to the simply silly. Hunts and their foxhounds will be brought into the cities to keep the fox population down. The Chinese will take shocking advantage of our desperate Prime Minister. Council officers will begin to wield draconian powers over the innocent population. A chat room for alpaca enthusiasts is a front for a radical animal liberation movement dedicated to releasing the grizzlies. The Archbishop of Canterbury will have his luggage eaten by vixens. Puddings will be made under duress in an inexplicable episode with a raving Chinese caterer. It is too rich a mix to digest, making this cake way too over-egged. But for inventiveness and a clever vision of a future that may be nearer than we think, Gardner delivers good value.

Anthony Gardner, Fox (Aedleevan Press, 2015), ISBN 978-0-9933680-4-2, £17.99 hb


About Kate

Blogger, lecturer, podcaster, writer, critic, reviewer, researcher, and publisher (, in and on British literary history. Preferred occupation while listening to podcasts: cooking or knitting. Preferred soundtrack while reading: the sound of silence.

6 comments on “Anthony Gardner’s Fox

  1. CJ
    February 29, 2016

    Sounds like an interesting premise – unintended consequences and all. Thanks for the fair and honest review. I will look for this book.

  2. Shay Simmons
    February 29, 2016

    The problem with the mass injection plot is that it will require far too many co-conspirators to remain secret for very long.

  3. Jackie
    February 29, 2016

    It’s also zoologically incorrect, as predators are seldom the ones whose populations grow to excess(except for humans). It almost always prey species such as deer, mice or rabbits, who have a larger amount of offspring and a larger pool of breeding adults. I doubt that foxes would ever reach the numbers where they would be threatening to humans.
    However, the other ideas are creative and sound more plausible than many of the extreme scenarios of dystopian novels. And your clever wordplay in the review made me chuckle, nicely done.

  4. Kate
    February 29, 2016

    Thanks, Jacks! I did think about talking to you about the biology, but the book would take you too long to read and wouldn’t arrive in time.

  5. cathmurphy
    March 1, 2016

    Biology aside, this does sound intriguingly crazy and also well-timed, given what’s happening to the planet right now. I also have to read about the chat room for alpaca enthusiasts, so I’m sold.

  6. Kate
    March 1, 2016

    It’s a bit of a throwaway line, but it does suggest a very interesting subculture, yes.

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This entry was posted on February 29, 2016 by in Entries by Kate, Fiction: 21st Century and tagged , , , , , .



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