Semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in Belfast in the 1960s and trying to set up an idealistic commune in Wales.
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A novel set mainly in Belfast in the 1960s, during the beginning of the last round of Troubles that ended (at least in theory) with the Good Friday agreement of 1998. The title comes from a Stafford Beer quote:
"The Holocaust has shown us that the creation of hell on earth is just a matter of engineering. The creation of an earthly paradise is an engineering problem also."
Essentially a love story and rites of passage story set against a background of religious bigotry, sexual liberation, communes, folk music, pirate radio and armed revolution.
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Sharon Galligar Chance, Las Vegas Review Journa
Growing up among the turmoil of Northern Ireland in the 1960s was a challenge for the entire country, but for Danny Gallagher, a teenage boy attending a Roman Catholic school in Belfast, the constant unrest drove an undercurrent of excitement and danger that was too alluring to resist.
A whiz at anything having to do with electronics and amateur radios, Danny soon caught the interest of the local branch of the IRA and was soon recruited to do a few small jobs for the group. This secretive involvement would soon lead to changes in Danny’s life that would affect the rest of his life, and alter the history of the Northern Irish for the rest of time.
The fast-paced, action filled novel, “Engineering Paradise,” by David Gardiner, not only documents a restless time in Irish political history, it also shows how those changes in society affected the average person as well. Part love story, part coming-of-age drama, and part military history, Gardiner’s masterful storytelling skills are evident in this heart-wrenching tale that is set against a backdrop of actual events. Gardiner draws his readers into the heart of the story with prose that is lyrical and captivating. You’ll find yourself rooting for Danny Gallagher to achieve all he dreams of.
I highly recommend this novel.
Andrew McIntyre, author of The Short, the Long and the Tall
Set against events recorded in grainy black and white documentary footage, or in the memoirs of retired journalists and aging IRA hard men, the novel conjures to life first-hand an increasingly distant era, a disturbing time. Like the Indian Mutiny or the Boer War, the Irish Troubles are a blight the British establishment would love to forget, or somehow manipulate and neatly credit to their cause. Hence the immense value of this work, its detail, and characters, its astonishing technical accuracy. And David Gardiner’s novel is a real page-turner.
The background Ireland, so near to the UK, yet always so far, so constantly misunderstood, lampooned, neglected, abused, censored as a subject of media coverage and conversation on the mainland. Mention anything to do with Ireland, the IRA, Irish people, logical analysis shuts down, hysteria, absurdity, and prejudice erupt. Over the last 700 years, ongoing to the present day, Ireland has been the English journey up the river into the heart of darkness. The universal value of Engineering Paradise thus stems from its lack of political dogma and propaganda, its essential strength the neutral portrayal of civil war. The historical context is 1960s Britain, but with a little imagination it could be the 1690s, it could be any epoch, any locale.
The protagonist of the novel meanders his way Candide-like through this labyrinth of circumstances, ostensibly within his bounds, but increasingly Faustian. With the use of excellent dialogue, David Gardiner develops the characters as independent persona against this tableau, also as emblems reflecting a murky epoch in British history, and the never-ending human quest for a utopia.
Ultimately, with a neat twist in the tale, the novel makes us calculate, consider very carefully. What is it about humans that makes holocaust so easy to engineer? Surely we can answer, look into the mirror and reflect, travel up river into our heart of darkness with the same degree of intelligence and analysis? If so, a remote possibility exists for engineering paradise.
Geoff Nelder, science fiction author and editor
David Gardiner is no newcomer to telling tall and short tales. His The Other End of the Rainbow (2008), and The Rainbow Man and other Stories (2010), are a testament to the power and delight embedded in his imaginative short story telling. Sirat (2000), revealed his strengths in writing science fiction novels. Engineering Paradise is quite different in that is a semi-autobiographical story with free love, commune-living, and Irish life for a lad coming of age and being drawn in to the Troubles along with his friends. The title is derived from a Stafford Beer quotation: ‘The Holocaust has shown us that the creation of hell on earth is just a matter of engineering. The creation of an earthly paradise is an engineering problem also.’ (1926-2002), This hints at the philosophical feel of the novel, but it reflects too the innate nature of Danny, the protagonist, with his engineering aptitude for making radios and solving the problems of bomb making yet with an urge to find happiness and love.
Although much of the content is political and philosophical, including references to 17th Century Gerrald Winstanley and the The Diggers, the style has ironic humour that makes the novel a page-turner. Much of the humour digs at authority and the establishment, while amusement is also derived by irreverent jibes at the Church. For example, in response to people suffering illnesses and untimely deaths, Danny’s father (a GP) says: “If there really is a God up there, I don’t know how he sleeps at night.” These light yet poignant moments are balanced by thoughtful episodes in which Danny’s adolescent mind ponders “...everyone’s mortality, including his own.”
Danny, through his mechanical propensity, eagerness to please and naivety with regard to the wiliness of 1960s IRA recruitment methods, is sucked into the movement. He’s no academic and yet is good with words and hands, and not backwards in coming forwards with sweethearts. Churchill’s famous quote about Clement Atlee is used to describe him admirably: ‘modest, but then he has so much to be modest about.’
Luckily, Danny falls in love with a local beauty. Unluckily, she enjoys other lads too. With such turbulence in his emotions and learning on the go how to cope with so many non-normal behaviour for those times, it is no wonder that ‘His mind flailed around furiously...’.
The story travels from Belfast to the Isle of Man, North Wales to England, beautifully described and expertly crafted. Learn history, philosophy, bomb and love making, radio transmission, and Life. This is a masterstroke book, a masterpiece.
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