Review: The Wall by John Lanchester

RATING: 5/10


Ravaged by the Change, an island nation in a time very like our own has built the Wall―an enormous concrete barrier around its entire coastline. Joseph Kavanagh, a new Defender, has one task: to protect his section of the Wall from the Others, the desperate souls who are trapped amid the rising seas outside and are a constant threat. Failure will result in death or a fate perhaps worse: being put to sea and made an Other himself. Beset by cold, loneliness, and fear, Kavanagh tries to fulfill his duties to his demanding Captain and Sergeant, even as he grows closer to his fellow Defenders. A dark part of him wonders whether it would be interesting if something did happen, if they came, if he had to fight for his life


The Wall by John Lanchester was longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize but it is a hit and miss for me.

The Wall is a dystopian novel that sets in a world where the Change (a climatic event) has happened and there are no beaches left. A Wall was built to protect an island (presumably Britain) against the Others (presumably immigrants) from attacking and entering the island. Every inhabitant’s duty is to undergo a set of training to be a Defender to defend the Wall for 2 years against the attacks of the Others. If you are lucky enough, you can be one of the Flight (the air force) or the Guard (the Navy). Alternatively, you and your partner can also choose to be Breeders (to breed new children for the purposes of defending the Wall), and thereafter you and your partner will have some sort of special treatments. The Others who successfully cross the Wall will either be put back to the sea or if they can show that they have valuable expertise, they will be enrolled as the Help (slaves). In instances where the Others managed to cross the Wall, an equal amount of Defenders will be put out to the sea as a consequence of their incompetency.

The concept is very interesting and creative. It reflects the issues of nationalism and anti-immigration. However, there’s not much world-building and the major problem to me is the plot of the story. It is to some extent, aimless. I don’t know where the story is heading. The characters are also not well-developed and blend. The relationship and interactions between the characters are not believable at all. At some point in time, I can already guess how the story is going to end and this is really frustrating. Compared with other very established dystopian novels, the Wall is really not my cup of tea and only deserve a 5/10 stars from me. In any event, if you want an introductory read to dystopian novels, you can still try out The Wall.

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