Life is imitating art again. This time in regard to the, aptly named, ‘Oracle’. The second book in the series which ‘Plague’ began is set in Delphi, Greece and takes justice as its theme, in the way that the theme of ‘Plague’ is power. So it explores the idea of justice and how it is achieved, including concepts like vengeance, retribution, legal codes and punishment and law enforcement.
This is particularly relevant in societies where the law, as a means of achieving justice for everyone, is becoming out of reach for many, thereby diluting justice for all. Either because of cost (and the vast reduction in legal aid available to those who don’t have the money to seek justice) or because of right wing populist, media-amplified ideas that people belonging to certain groups do not deserve access to justice. Asylum seekers, for example, or refugees. Demonising the ‘other’ is a standard populist tactic, so are attacks on the concept of human rights, which are, by their nature, applicable to all human beings, regardless.
If this makes ‘Oracle’ sound dull, I would like to reassure you that it’s only as dull as ‘Plague’ was and a quick glance at reader reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, or its critical reception, shows that ‘Plague’ was pretty exciting.
I was prompted towards justice as a theme by recent events, particularly the Supreme Court preventing the executive from shutting down Parliament, the UK’s sovereign body. The ongoing Black Lives Matter protests at the treatment by the police of specific groups of people, those who happen not to be white, in the States and here also played a part. More recently the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the scramble to replace her with someone partisan towards a specific political position also highlighted the link between justice and politics.
In ‘Oracle’ a senior politician doesn’t trust that the officers being sent to investigate murky goings on are truly impartial, because of the politicisation of the police. In Greece there are close historic ties between the police and the military, which ruled the country as a junta until 1974. I began writing ‘Oracle’ in early 2019, however, some time before the legal trial of a whole political party, Golden Dawn.
On 7 October 2020, Athens Appeals Court ruled that Golden Dawn operated as a criminal organization, systematically attacking migrants and leftists. The court also announced verdicts for sixty-eight defendants including the party’s political leadership. Nikolaos Michaloliakos and six other prominent members and former MPs, charged with running a criminal organization, were found guilty. Verdicts of murder, attempted murder, and violent attacks on immigrants and left-wing political opponents were also delivered. Golden Dawn held 17 seats in the Hellenic Parliament only five years ago. An independent investigation by the Council of Europe found disturbing links between Golden Dawn and the police.
The politicisation of elements of the justice system which already feature in ‘Oracle’ have a real life corollary. Just as elements of the governing system in ‘Plague’, like the awarding of large sums of taxpayers’ money to companies without any track record, or assets, avoiding due diligence and accountability, have a similar echo in real life. It’s encouraging and dis-spiriting at the same time.
If you’re interested in reading about the coincidences between the plot of Plague and real life try Plague – Stranger than Fiction The Plague Story Continues Stranger than Fiction II