There is a new genre in books – cli fi. Fiction based on climatic catastrophe. After the year we’ve all experienced do we really want to now read a book where the prophets of doom and their predictions of the earth being destroyed environmentally come true?
I thought I didn’t when I read of reservoirs all dry, sea erosion which has decimated the UK (Nottingham is now a port!) and humans can only tentatively survive on diminishing resources to eat because for large periods of their lives they are put to sleep by controlling powers. But the author has superbly created characters within this novel that make human existence worth survival and a universally emotional story between a father and son makes readers fight alongside those who finally rise up against those ‘in charge.’
“There are no planes flying over England anymore.” In the pandemic this peace and clear skies somewhat rejuvenated human existence with nature and our planet, even alongside our concerns for the economic destruction it brought. Now we find a couple Ben and Rose living within a tiny bleak concrete apartment scrabbling for food when shops have scraps and humans are given limited CREDS which are traded by those controlling them when they are awoken. Life is insular and Ben has to care for Rose, who is obviously suffering trauma and the onset of dementia. Why is their life like this?
This dystopian fairy tale of countless sleeping beauties (The Sleep) shows us another main character Peruzzi, a Janitor, who from his flat has control over a huge amount of humans and is steadily becoming disillusioned with his work. His friend Hassan is a calm guiding light in the building, whereas Slattery is another Janitor, who pushes the boundaries and ‘escapes’ the barricades of the city. When Peruzzi joins him in ‘the real world’ layers and remnants of human existence throw his life into question. Look out for a small but significant Royal story and the androgenous new ‘Alexa’ (still a woman’s voice in slavish subjugation).
The plot also gives us a picture of the world before this catastrophe. Here Ben and Rose in younger days were activists seeking to overthrow the impending control exerted by politicians (United World Congress) who of course in ‘saving us’ then go on to assume power and destroy all opposition- in this future world nothing really changes…..
There are elements of Orwell’s ‘1984’ alongside an updated scientific and technological world of AI advancements and the ubiquitous implanting ‘of a chip in human brains.’ There is the almost other worldly mystic SOUK where you can buy things, security called ‘Peeler’s showing their impotence in controlling beyond the Janitors press of a button, and a rural world outside these extremes, striving to return to life and bring future, balanced and happier humans back to populate the world. “In the city we’d been able to pretend all was ok,’ and it is here in the dramatic and highly emotional conclusion that the strands of the story finally collide.
In dystopian novels the hunted often begin hunting. During their travels they reveal truths that humans have been taught to forget but which remind us of depths of love, loyalty and life which no automated religion or political power can overthrow.
I did feel this might be a ‘bloke’s book’ but was warmly drawn into a wonderful telling of human hearts and needs by the author. Never judge a book by its genre given here as ‘speculative fiction.’ The author has already written a novel ‘The Zoo’ and I shall seek it out with interest.
Many thanks to Sandstone Press for an advanced copy of this novel. I wish Jamie Mollart the author huge success with a timely, frightening but like some aspects of our own current existence – a reappraisal of what is important to us as humans. Just avoid all conspiracy theories of Bill Gates and vaccination mind chips…….
Review by Philipa Coughlan
Published by Sandstone Press Ltd; First edition (10 Jun. 2021)
Hardback, ISBN 978-1913207458