The Method by Juli Zeh

juliThe Method is a dystopian novel set during the middle of the 21st century that knows all the rules of the genre and deliberately manipulates them to wonderful effect. It’s a conceptual story that employs traditional techniques to bring to life the author’s ideas about how we live today via an analogy from the future.

At the centre of the novel is Mia Holl, a member of a society governed by The Method, a protocol that manages the good health of all citizens whether they like it or not. Everyone’s physical welfare is closely monitored by means of obligatory and invasive checkups and inspections. As Heinrich Kramer, the architect of The Method, explains early in the novel, in a monologue that lays much of Zeh’s conceptual groundwork: ‘Our society has attained its apotheosis. Unlike every previous or current form of social organisation we’re not in thrall to the market or religion. We’re not dependant on high-flown ideological beliefs. The smug, self-serving faith in popular democracy has no place in our system. Our society is driven by reason and reason alone.’

Mia’s brother, Moritz, has been convicted, wrongly in her eyes, of a shocking crime. Working against a regime that has diminished the rights of the individual for seemingly benevolent reasons, Mia struggles and suffers to fight back, for herself and for her brother.

Like many of the most successful contemporary novelists, Zeh (pictured above) is a master of filmic narration, describing a scene by bringing a handful of choice details into focus, using jump cuts to move backwards and forwards in time, and bringing to life ideas with long, powerful sections of sharp dialogue. I wasn’t surprised to discover that the people who made Run Lola Run are adapting one of Zeh’s earlier novels to cinema. Read this thoroughly satisfying book before the announcement that the film rights have been sold – if it hasn’t happened already.

Will Heyward is from Readings St Kilda