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Matthew Tree
'Just Looking'
Matthew Tree, author
In the near future, four very different people meet on a cruise ship off the French coast. Over time, all four will get involved in very different ways with a network of avowedly neo-Fascist parties that are expanding throughout Europe. Eventually, the four main characters will end up discovering the horrific hidden agenda of this network. 'Just Looking' is a black comedy.
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 9.25 out of 10


Plot/Idea: Set in a near-future Europe, Just Looking is a strikingly well-realized political satire that sees characters unwittingly immersed in the machinations of a Neo-Fascist network. 

Prose: Tree's writing is punchy, thoughtful, and smart with consistently vivid dialogue among the characters. He succeeds in striking a narrative tone that is serious yet snide.

Originality: Just Looking inventively examines present-day threats through a future lens. The author tackles a heady topic with narrative prowess and dark humor.

Character/Execution: Tree capably juggles different perspectives without missing a beat. Readers will find that the characters are far more than chess pieces within a powerful story that serves as a prescient warning. 

Date Submitted: April 04, 2023

This stinging near-future satire from Tree (If Only) charts the rise of neo-Fascism in the Europe of the 2030s. Four people meet on a cruise sailing along the coast of France: a painter, a student, a journalist and his wife. Despite the rise of the hateful NSLF, and a vicious anti-immigration demonstrations on the mainland, their holiday seems splendid, all “pongy pizza counters and chromed-up ice cream parlours,” until suddenly it isn’t. Faced with escalating violence, the quartet find themselves embroiled in the NSLF and We Are England, a similar group that likewise seems to harbor an agenda even darker than it publicly admits, and what seems to be a Europe once again teetering on the brink of genocide.

Right off the bat, Tree’s language is snarky, succinct, and rather funny, despite the novel’s dead-serious warning. He deftly blends the absurd with the politically urgent and sharp observations about human behavior. He’s also a great writer of dialogue, with conversations between characters always engaging, revealing, and convincing. The perspective shifts among the characters and even time periods, but the narrative’s still unified and consistently compelling thanks to Tree’s free-wheeling flow, his urgent, possibly prescient themes, and humor that’s both incisive and pained.

Tree takes none of this lightly, however, and plot developments involving anti-semitic violence are suitably wrenching. At some points in recent history, reviewers might carp that what Joe discovers when infiltrating We Are England is over the top, but contemporary history demonstrates that’s not so. Tree likewise avoids the opposite danger of being too on-the-nose by imbuing his tale of hate on the march with surprise, humanity, moral outrage, and the hard-won truth that humanity seems condemned to keep repeating the worst of history. Lovers of pointed satire and novels of political terror and burgeoning dystopias will find much that resonates in this potent story, which is as frightening as it is funny.

Takeaway: This searing satire imagines, with uncommon wit, a fascist uprising in near-future Europe.

Great for fans of: Jon Raymond’s Denial, Nancy Mitford’s Wigs on the Green.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A