Headspace, By Amber Marks

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The Independent Culture

When she describes sniffer dogs hassling innocent travellers at Tube stations, I have to take Amber Marks's experiences at face value as I've never actually seen an example of this myself. The newspaper stories she cites, about dogs being used in schools to sniff out drugs, for example, seem the kind of silly stories that surface every so often but then fizzle out without ever actually coming to anything, so they don't help her case much either. What does underpin her book, though, is a genuine sense that we're all coming under increasing surveillance, all the time, without even realising it – and not for the reasons we're being given, either.

Subtitled "Sniffer dogs, spy bees and one woman's adventures in the surveillance society", this is an astute book with a great deal of useful information. But Marks repeatedly invokes comparisons between the here and now and the Stasi in the former East Germany, Big Brother in 1984 and Conan Doyle's avenging killer dog in The Hound of the Baskervilles and I'm not sure how helpful the comparisons are – and anyway, bees are taking over from dogs, apparently.

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