This short(ish) novelette is an intriguing tale of Doctor Mason, a psychiatrist by day who goes about his job largely uneventfully. But what happens when the doors to his practice close? He goes down into a secret vault – not to unleash secret and dastardly plans to overthrow the world powers… but to brew beer. This in his world is illegal and the Police are hot on the trail of the “Drink Criminal”.
And why is his seen as the town’s worst criminal? Because there is just one drinks company in the town and they have managed to convince the authorities to make it illegal for anybody else to produce alcohol of any kind. Their own beer tastes like piss too (ok so this is a critique of Budweiser then, haha) leaving people with no choice but to drink the foul fluids they offer. That is until the “drink criminal” starts giving people what they actually want – good beer, spirits and wine.
His father is murdered by a Police Officer when he is young – but the powers of the Police in this world are absolute and nobody challenges, questions or launches an enquiry into why he should be so cold-bloodedly killed. They move away to another town that is practically identical to the last – all is not well in the world. It seems this is a sort of capitalist dictatorship and Lake Ltd (the drinks company) wants the illegal brewer caught and made an example of.
Doctor Mason has been the “drink criminal” for many years until one day he gets a mysterious letter seemingly from an outside source saying that they know what he is up to – oh dear.
This is a quirky little tale yet dark at the same time in the tradition of something along the lines of China Mieville (but without the Marxism) and Doctor Seuss (but without the rhyming). It is not an easy feat to pull off so maximum marks to the writer for managing it. Nor will it be everybody’s pint of real ale (it certainly was mine) – especially with the dark undertones. I thoroughly enjoyed the subtext of the capitalist dictatorship though I am not sure whether this was supposed to be a clear and definite critique of capitalist monopolists influencing governments too much or whether that was merely a plot device. As a connoisseur of good beer myself, I’d prefer to think of the former. Thankfully I do not see this world emerging – certainly not in Europe where we are spoilt for choice!
I felt the ending was a little unsatisfactory, it was wrapped up all too quickly and I felt the idea was so good that it deserved to be longer. I wanted to know more about this world. What turn of events caused this Corporate Dictatorship? Precisely which organisations does the police force work for? This would have been great with a little more humour and a bit more substance.
The book is presently available on the author’s website on a pay-what-you-want basis. It makes for good holiday reading and I gave it four stars at Amazon and Good Reads.