Teens' Book of the Month: We See Everything
Book: We See Everything by William Sutcliffe | Age Category: 12+
Join our 2015 Scottish Children's Book Awards-shortlisted author William Sutcliffe in his exciting new novel, We See Everything!
Lex lives on the Strip - an overpopulated, fenced off rectangle of land which was once part of the bustling city of London. In this London however, armed drones watch from above, acting as a hovering, volatile reminder to behave as the state commands. Alan's job is to navigate these drones and intervene when necessary. Despite never coming face to face, Lex and Alan's lives are forever intertwined when Alan is given a target who he knows only as the leader of the rebellious Corps, but who Lex knows as Dad.
A thrilling, fast-paced and particularly relevant read, We See Everything explores war, impoverishment, fear and danger as much as it does the struggles of love, family and responsibility. A heart-wrenching story of togetherness and coming of age set within the fraught and treacherous world of a governmentally controlled dystopia, this is a gripping book that older readers will find impossible to put down.
We See Everything is available from 21 September 2017.
Q&A with William Sutcliffe
What is it about dystopias that are so engaging and exciting?
A dystopia is, by definition, a place nobody would choose to live. So why is it that writers and readers are so often drawn to tales of cowed populations, tyrannical governments, war-torn landscapes, corrupt elites and ecological devastation? These are not exactly fun places to spend your time.
Sometimes we simply want entertainment, comfort and reassurance from the books we choose to read, but other times we look for something more. The world we live in is confusing, unstable, and frequently cruel. The news gives us a superficial understanding of what is going on, and how the world is changing, but deeper issues of how we should feel about the complexities of the modern world are never going to be addressed by a quick scroll through a news website.
Dystopian fiction takes a step back from the distracting and confusing plethora of detail that makes it hard to comprehend what is happening around us, and creates alternate worlds in which big issues are addressed with a clarity that the real world rarely offers. The setting of We See Everything allowed me to look at modern warfare – specifically drone warfare – without explicitly tying my narrative to any one particular war. This, I hope, brings out an interesting moral argument aside from the rights and wrongs of any specific conflict, producing a sharper focus on an important issue than any real-world-set novel could achieve.
Why did you choose to set your novel in London?
Why do we read novels? Above all, it is to find out how it feels to be someone other than ourselves. The reader of a novel enters into another person’s consciousness in a way no other art from can offer. A good novel expands the empathy of its readers.
When we see wars in Syria, Iraq or Gaza on our TV screens, we get an inkling of the horror, but the situation is so appalling, so hard to grasp, that it is difficult to fully empathise with the victims of these wars. We see bombs exploding over urban areas, but we cannot imagine what it would be like to cower in your home, with jet planes zooming overhead raining down destruction. By inventing a Gaza-like situation taking place in London, I hope to put into readers’ heads a very simple but important question: “What if that was me?”
I chose London because it is the city I know best, having lived there most of my life. Also, it contains many internationally known landmarks whose destruction, in the novel, will, I hope, make an impact on the many people who live in or have ever visited the city.
After reading We See Everything, I hope that war reports on TV will seem a little less distant and abstract, and that it will be easier to understand what refugees are fleeing, and why they deserve our compassion.
Both characters are heavily influenced by video games. Do you find that video games inspire or influence you in your writing?
I am not personally a gamer, but I knew it was important to this story. I learned from my research that the US military recruits drone pilots directly from gaming contests, and also that some drone controls are reputed to be based on the PlayStation controller. When you think that these are actually war-planes firing lethal missiles at real people, the moral implications are horrifying. The blurring of the real and the virtual is an important issue of our times – and the subject of drone warfare pushes this to its most troubling limit. A drone pilot can kill another human in a way that looks, on his screen, almost indistinguishable from a game.
The other central character – the boy living inside the 'London Strip', whose family is being watched by this drone pilot – is also a gamer, but for a different reason. I wanted these two characters, who are living very different lives on opposite sides of an entrenched conflict, to seem like subtle parallels to one another. They are distinct individuals, but in different circumstances, either one of them could have lived the life of the other. It is when the drone pilot begins to realise this that his confidence in his role begins to dissolve.
We have 5 copies of We See Everything to be won! To be in with a chance of winning one, just answer the question below. The competition closes on Friday 29 September 2017 at 5pm. All entrants must reside in the UK.