Monday, 7 May 2012

Review of 'Brand Loyalty' by Cally Phillips

At last, I hear you cry - another Rosalie Review! Well, I hope that's what you're thinking.You certainly should be excited, where this book is concerned. Without further ado, let me introduce you to Cally Phillips' superb novel, Brand Loyalty.


I want to see this on TV!

Don’t get me wrong – I'm a lover of books and I loved this one in many ways. But to my mind, it’s a story that cries out for visual enactment and dramatisation. It’s exactly the sort of thing that Channel 4, if I had my way, would be showing on our screens.

Where to begin? This is partly the story of Helen, one of my generation, currently middle-aged but, since this is 2030, she’s now ‘old’, and because she’s one of the unlucky ones she’s living a sad, impoverished existence in a dreary ‘home’. Helen is a VCC – a victim of the credit crunch (interestingly, the first drafts of this story were written in the 1990s, long before the ‘real’ credit crunch). The CC was the end of History and the beginning of Today – and the online dictionaries reflect this boundary by giving two definitions of every word – one ‘In History’ and one ‘Today’. (Yes, there are strong echoes of 1984. Orwell’s I mean, not Thatcher’s, though come to think of it...)

Helen has lost her much-loved husband and children and now lives with only her memories – though the whole notion of memory has a different cast in these times. Memories, even the most personal ones, are always social constructs to some extent, but Phillips has stretched this notion to a frightening but not implausible degree.

‘Brand Loyalty’ is also the story of three ‘Project Kids’: Nike, Omo and Flora (yes, these really are their names), who are being trained to play their part in the brave new world of ULTIMATE(R) . ULTIMATE(R) can be thought of as an amalgamation of the world’s largest companies (naming no names here) – it's the ultimate ‘brand’. 

‘Brand Loyalty’ is set in Edinburgh, but it’s a future version of that city where there is no longer any Scottish Parliament or even a Royal Commonwealth Pool. Presumably, ubiquitous virtual reality has removed the need for the latter, while ULTIMATE(R) has overtaken the functions of government. In 2030, everyone is a consumer – consumption rules. Much of life is lived online, including most sexual encounters. But this isn't really sci-fi. It’s a near-future scenario, much of which, you feel, is already beginning to happen in our day. It’s social engineering built on the back of rampant capitalism, consumerism and IT. And, of course, greed. It denies individuality and progressive thought – any kind of challenge to the system. It’s frightening, I have to say, because it could almost literally be Tomorrow’s World, if not today’s...

So, as the Project Kids watch the world’s last tiger die on their screens – is resistance useless and is freedom doomed?

Things change. Helen talks to the project kids. One of them falls in love and comes to her for advice. It's poignant, hearing Helen talk about love as it was, in the lost world she remembers. Another kid starts posing questions – difficult ones that he’s not really meant to ask. One question leads to another and he soon uses up his quota (which has to be paid for by useful work – doing consumer surveys in the main). But Nike (or Nick, as Helen, his gran, insists on calling him) ploughs on, uncovering all kinds of inconvenient truths, making contact with a rebel group and... let’s just say shaking things up.

As for Helen – is there any escape for her, in any kind of life, from her institutional magnolia-painted walls?

‘Brand Loyalty’ is the most challenging, disturbing and fascinating book I've read for quite some time. It deserves to be widely read – and, if possible, seen. Please, someone – put it on TV.

And here's your chance to read it - free!
FREE FOR 3 DAYS: Cally Phillips is offering Brand Loyalty as a free download for the next three days, starting tomorrow, i.e. May 8, 9 and 10. Read about it on her blog.

Or to download Brand Loyalty just go to

Happy Reading!
Best wishes,