Book Review: Stealing Time

Originally published in Gay Star Spring 1991. Review written by RB

The blurb on the back says: “A lesbian feminist novel that brings today’s vicious politics to their illogical conclusion while offering a rascally hope for the future.”

The novel is set in the future where hard cash has been abolished and legal transactions are done via direct transfers between computerised bank accounts  Controlling which organisations get these accounts is one way the establishment suppresses subversive activity.  Also, each citizen has a Social Credit status which affects what kind of privileges, such as the quality of education or health care, they can get from the state.

As a dig at the New Right the novel does not really work.  The New Right is certainly not in my experience interested in class and social status.  Rather it is more interested in material things such as hard cash.  A free market in health care and education it may well be capable of providing an ideological justification for.  It would shun any kind of system based on an abstract concept of Social Credit.

As a story it is not exactly gripping.  The highest level of suspense for me was whether Alison, the adolescent computer hacker, was going to have grommets put into her ear by the end of the story.  Physical action peaked when the police were around though I found the police scenes in Tom Sharpe’s Wilt more exciting.

If you are going to have computer hacking or some other technical pursuit as a fore-ground activity in a novel it needs to be convincing and in this book it sadly is not.  Computers are not as easy to hack through down telephone lines as she implies – a lot more can be done to protect against unauthorised access than just having static passwords.  For example, a protection system where the central computer had to telephone the user’s terminal back would have flummoxed our heroines as the authorities would known exactly which telephone numbers had been used for accessing their computer.

The book does not make lesbian squats sound very attractive.  Too much tension.  Marlene, Kerry and Ruth would probably have been much happier if they had beaten each other up occasionally

If you are looking for a book to inspire your children/sprogs/weens.  I would not recommend Stealing Time as the highest level of action is Bobbies raiding a squat and the technical detail is very thin.

Better, but not perhaps so ideologically sound from Onlywomen’s Press’ perspective, is Robert Heinleins’s Podkayne of Mars and Have Space Suit Will Travel.



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