Finally published in 2020, Peter May’s Lockdown comes across as a journalistic account of the goings-on of the present day London. The rest of the world can correlate with the description of London under Lockdown. But written and submitted in 2005, the novel’s manuscript was turned down by publishers for being too unrealistic (and perhaps too sensational!). It took an actual Pandemic and an extended Lockdown to get the novel finally published on April 1,2020. Even in 2005, Lockdown was not a figment of Peter May’s imagination, but the Scottish bestselling writer had based his work on US and UK Pandemic Preparedness documents.
But as they say,every manuscript has but one destiny…..
The PM of UK succumbed to the viral Pandemic that hit May’s London. Boris Johnson has actually survived the Corona scare, but the similarity is as eerily accurate as could have been palatable.
In the novel, a bagful of bones belonging to a child were found at a construction site. St George’s Hospital was being expanded at urgent pace to provide spillover medical facilities for the city’s infected and dying millions. The novel itself makes a reference to China’s construction of a SARS combat facility in a record seven days. The Chinese have taken ten days to build a Corona Combat Centre in 2020. They are incapable of getting the humour that resides in this reference.
Peter May’s London was parceled into open and restricted zones. There were some no-go areas like Isle of Dogs which were beyond the access of law enforcement. The residents there were uninfected and did not want the virus to invade their island under human agency. They had set up armed cordon around the Isle and were willing to even shoot at the cops to defend their isolation. This has not been reported so far from anywhere in the world. Barricades had gone up on every road and in every street. Everything was shut down. No one was at work. There was in fact no work. London was the ground zero of the pandemic, and the whole waited with bated breath for it to reach their borders.
London under lockdown was a ghost town and devil’s workshop. Those venturing out were masked and gloved, cops and medical staff were clothed in PPE gears. It was predicted that 25 percent of the metropolis population would get infected by the bird flu variant, and 75 percent of those affected shall lose their lives. Thousands were already dead and more were dying everyday. Unburnt bodies were piled up in the municipal heap, and those being burnt had created a huge billow of cloud over south of London.
While investigating the whereabouts of a bagful of bones recovered at the hospital construction site, Detective Inspector McNeill stumbled upon one lead after another that helped him identify the Patient Zero and the truth behind the spread of pandemic. Shockingly as it turned out, a top Pharma Company had injected the Patient Zero with Genetically Modified viral strain of Bird Flu and sent her to a single source event. The virus mutated as it spread, and the resultant Antigenic Shift rendered the Company’s vaccine powerless. In Peter May’s world, the rogue company was French, Zero was a Chinese kid and WHO officials were compromised. In the absence of the vaccine, an ameliorative product of the company sold like hotcake, but was not the cure.
The novel does not talk about special vulnerabilities of senior citizens and patients with co-morbidities. Except that, it mostly gets its science and socio-political impact spot on. The novel works as a thriller, not just as a prescient commentary.
The lead of the novel DI Jack MacNeil had a troubled marriage and had lost his only child to the virus. His partner, Amy, is handicapped and is an expert with the Forensic Odontologist. Pinkie is a teenage gangster on loose. Characters in the novel serve as good props to tell an incredibly powerful story.
Peter May has raised some very pertinent questions like profiteering tendencies of pharma companies even in times of mass tragedy, complicity of WHO officials, ever present possibility of a man-made viral pandemic and its mutant variant causing millions of deaths and inherent difficulties in development of a vaccine .Peter May must be congratulated for conceiving this idea a decade and a half before Corona actually struck.
#Lockdown #PeterMay #LondonLockdown #Corona #WHO