IN SEVEN May Days, compressed into the single week following the 2001 May Day demonstrations in London, Nicolas Lalaguna’s intent is to demonstrate that the actions of the capitalist state’s agents are as vicious and cold-blooded as if they were operating in a conflict zone.
In this battleground, surveillance is continuous. Murder by the state is covered up and blamed on someone else and the mainstream media are useful idiots in regurgitating disinformation.
Prompted by the demonstration, idealistic anti-capitalists Conor and Liam seek to embark on an ill-defined attack on capitalism. They run an egalitarian community centre whose activities and mere existence have caught the attention of both British and US secret services.
When they’re joined by Naddiyyah, a superlatively skilled hacker and her network of like-minded anarchists, the forces of the state begin to move in.
More central than either Conor or Liam to the action, and more revealing of the clandestine and utterly amoral techniques of the deep state, Conor’s girlfriend Emma epitomises the conflicting demands of career, duty and love and their ultimate incompatibility.
Initially, she’s the well-meaning and concerned counterpoise to Conor’s idealism but, in a series of startling revelations, the various layers of her life are exposed.
Lalaguna, an adroit and confident writer, leaves the reader balanced between hope and expectation as to how and why Emma will make her next move as the book hurtles to its bloody conclusion.
Facing Conor and Liam are polar opposites Terry and James, British and US spy operatives respectively, who hold each other in mutual contempt.
In the unequal struggle between the two sides, with Emma pivoting between them, the politically mature reader will understand that no one group of individuals, detached from the wider industrial, parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggles, will stand a chance against the common enemy.
Like some well-meaning Baader-Meinhof spin-off, Conor and Liam’s battles amount to so much less than had they been part of a bigger working-class movement — freelance activism and anarchist sloganeering are like pebbles thrown at a tank.
This is an extraordinary political thriller that refuses to obey the Establishment’s requirement to soften the image of brutish and unheroic state security operatives.
If we didn’t know it already, this novel shows that it is only a mass movement led by a steeled vanguard that will produce the first cracks in Leviathan.