Mind's Eye by Paul McAuley

A clash of symbols
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The Independent Culture

Paul McAuley's novel being a thriller, others with more sinister purpose - an American torturer, a Swiss psychiatrist, a pirate DJ - are also intent on the glyphs. They pursue the asylum seeker who has been using arcane symbols to decorate "US Out Now" cartoons.

This is a book by someone who is paying attention. Its plot is driven by people predisposed to notice marginalia, make connections, follow threads. It takes the current climate of terror as a given, the London scenes throbbing with edgy anticipation, but doesn't trade in the easy sloganeering of its graffiti artist.

McAuley takes a long view on Iraq, suggesting that the region's (and the world's) problems might be down to an ancient, unstable power no one is qualified to handle. When the characters return to the source of the trouble in Kurdistan, there's an incisive portrait of its tangle of pragmatists and opportunists.

As always with McAuley, this novel isn't just about the ideas. In Mind's Eye, history is personal and national, public and secret, and there's a tension between bringing it to light and burying it forever. The book reads like an action movie with a heart and mind.