The Red Children by Maggie Gee

I read this one because Bernadine Evaristo raved about it in a tweet a few weeks back, and I think she knows a good book when she’s it. Aside from that, I bloody loved the idea.

The Red Children is set in a future Britain where a pandemic (another one) has put a significant dent in the male population, and racism is seeing a resurgence (so when I say ‘future’, I probably mean ‘Monday week’).

The coastal town of Ramsgate struggles about its business in the slightly dystopian future; most of the people are decent and grieving, others are dipping a tentative toe into far-right wing nationalism.

And into this once-idyllic village come the Red People: refugees from an ecological disaster who just happen to be Neanderthals. …

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The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray

Our next tale of dystopian science-fiction misery is The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray, who is one of the QI Elves no less. So at the very least, I think we can expect the science behind the fiction. The premise is stark in simplicity: following a celestial event millions of miles away, Earth’s rotation begins to slow down, until eventually stops. The planet still orbits the sun, but without the its own rotation, days on side of the planet are perpetual, as is the night on the other. Most of the world is either too hot or too cold to support life, and the few countries where people can still survive face starvation as crops fail, and complete breakdown of global communication as the world’s satellite array fails.

The book does a decent job of explaining how the implausible might happen, but that’s not really what it’s about. Once you’re past the background of the global catastrophe (that they did have about thirty years to prepare for), we move on to how the human race adapts when the world stops turning.

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Inverted World by Christopher Priest

This was first published in 1974, so I’m getting to it a tad late. I wasn’t sure what to read next, so for me, that’s a good time to dip into the SF Masterworks collection.

Now if you’ve read anything about Inverted World then you’ll be expecting something exceptionally mind-blowing. I’m not sure if I’d go as far as that, but it certainly qualifies as mind-bending.

The story is set on a planet that might be Earth … or might not and follows the life of Helward Mann, a denizen of a city that, for the past few hundred years, has been dragged around across the continent on rails in order to stay ahead of some unknown catastrophe. Helman works his way through a youth opportunity programme that will eventually see him graduate as a member of the Guild of Surveyors which is tasked with mapping the land ahead so that the Guild of Navigators, Bridge-builders, and the Traction Guild can work together to keep the city (inconveniently called Earth) moving.

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