Andrew Cartmel's Prisoner
novel, Miss Freedom
is a decent enough Prisoner story, but — for all its aspirations to be "a classic 1960s-style spy novel, in the tradition of John Le Carré, Adam Hall and Len Deighton" — little more than that. It certainly hasn't the intellectual pyrotechnics to match Jon Blum and Rupert Booth's The Prisoner's Dilemma
had a real sense of urgency about it, of having something important to impart which could only be told as part of a Prisoner
story; by comparison Miss Freedom
is... not lazy exactly, but certainly languid.
There's certainly much that's taken directly from the seventeen TV episodes — Number 6 faces a clinically insane Number 2 (Hammer into Anvil
) and a beautiful woman of ambivalent loyalties (The Chimes of Big Ben
and passim), who place him in a subsidiary reality (A, B and C
, Living in Harmony
) where he's encouraged to tell a spy story with himself as the central character (The Girl Who Was Death
), etc etc etc. Such elements as might seem newish (there's a rescue mission afoot to spring Number 6 from the Village, and the ousted Number 2 was actually on his side) are actually ringing the changes on these established elements.
Cartmel clearly knows his Prisoner, but most of his story is essentially pastiche — well-written and perfectly competent pastiche, but unambitious. The most interesting thing, perhaps, is the way Number 6 redrafts his spy story as he's telling it, constantly revisiting earlier story elements and rewriting them. The fact that his fiction comes dangerously close to overlapping his reality might indeed suggest — again, not exactly a new idea to the Prisoner aficionado — that the Village itself is the product of Number 6's shellshocked fantasies.
Cartmel's biggest innovation, though, is in making his psychotic New Number 2 a sexually-motivated serial killer, which makes for some deeply uncomfortable moments. Given that a criticism frequently levelled against Cartmel's previous fiction has been his willingness to play the "violence against women" card, I might almost have found this creepy, if there hadn't been some evidence that he was attempting to address this tendency with a degree of complexity on a thematic level.
Basically, though... with this one, you're not really missing much. I feel less guilty about picking up one of the only 100 copies in existence, now.
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