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Book review: The Guard, By Peter Terrin


The motif of stranded sentinels condemned to repeat pointless duties during, or after, some offstage catastrophe has bred an eerily powerful strain of fiction, from Kafka through Dino Buzatti to JM Coetzee and Magnus Mills.

Terrin's wonderfully sinister, darkly funny novel owes more to this genre than to simple SF. Guards Harry and narrator Michel keep watch in a tower-block basement as the "New War" empties the city.

Many twists ensue. Finely translated (from Dutch) by David Colmer, the deadpan, exact, discomfiting prose keeps an icy grip.