The Godless Boys by Naomi Wood

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The Independent Culture

Dystopian novels of faith, power and resistance crop up regularly. So the form can feel stale. Yet this assured, involving debut finds a new vehicle – although one that knows its own tradition – to explore this ground. In 1986, England has been a rigid theocracy for 35 years, ever since God "came down... like a cage". The church-burning Secular Movement was quashed; freethinkers expelled. Now, on a northern island, the tribe of the godless inhabit an atheist enclave. Sarah, from the pious mainland, arrives to seek her exiled mother. She meets Nathaniel, one of the zealots who hunt down "signs of churchliness". Wood sketches the back-story with crafty discretion, while a richly imagined setting allows the fable to flourish with the minimum of preaching.

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