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Review-a-Day
Esquire
Wednesday, January 17th, 2007
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Surveillance: A Novel

by Jonathan Raban

Spies Like Us

A review by Anya Yurchyshyn

Jonathan Raban's new novel Surveillance is about life under watch: the government watches for disasters and terrorists, and people watch the government. Its main subject is a journalist who fears her profile subject may be a fraud. As befitting her surroundings, she becomes obsessed with discovering his real identity. It's a somewhat interesting premise until, well, it isn't.

The main problem is that Raban beats the theme of surveillance to death. At every turn he reminds us that this is a world under surveillance, a place where everyone spies on everyone one else, an American city where no one is safe. Got it!?!

Raban has already proven himself as a great writer in his previous books. And some of his characters in this latest effort are interesting. But his problem is that they all do the same thing. It's a one-dimensional setting playing host to one-dimensional characters. The result is a poorly developed novel that feels like a political lecture.


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