Cover Image: This Fragile Earth

This Fragile Earth

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Member Reviews

Dystopian fiction is fast becoming one of my favourite genres so I was super chuffed to be taking part in the book tour for This Fragile Earth!

Not long from now, in a recognisable yet changed London, Signy and Matthew lead a dull, difficult life. They've only really stayed together for the sake of their six year old son, Jed. But they're surviving, just about. Until the day the technology that runs their world stops working. Unable to use their phones, pay for anything, even open the smart door to their flat, Matthew assumes that this is just a momentary glitch in the computers that now run the world…

This book had me hooked from the start! I found the London of the future fascinating to read about and so well thought out. The whole atmosphere that Susannah Wise creates is brilliant; eerily spooky and dark! The beginning of the book is so fast paced, reflecting the frantic nature of Signy and the unknown chaos that is overtaking London.

As the book carries on, we find the pace slowing a little but I liked that as I felt it really emphasised the situation and how Signy and Jed are feeling. Each new day is a chapter which was a great way to show how time was passing.

I loved Signy’s strength and determination to look after her son, despite what was going on around her. It really struck a chord with me and found some parts quite emotional to read!

The ending was very powerful and a very reflective note to end on. Some of the science/technology aspects were a bit over my head and I did have to read parts a few times, but the overriding theme of our fragile earth really shines through!
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This book was unbelievably tense. I found myself not wanting to put it down but when I did I would be thinking about what would happen next. 
Set sometime after 2030( since this year was mentioned in the past tense) after a kind of plague that affected the environment and the food and water supplies. 
Signy, Matthew and Jed live the relative blinkered life so when the "smart" controllers of the lifestyle this future has become accustomed to fails they have to look to the past to survive. Humanity goes back to basics as they hunt to survive the journey from London to her childhood countryside home. A tense and gripping story that does at times seem a bit hard to believe ( do 6 year olds really talk like Jed) but I found Signys despair and mind fraying so well done. I myself have experienced the bottom falling out of my world a few times and this is what it feels like!  The ending - the last 2% of the story kind of seemed written in a rush, but apart from that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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A book about a highly possible future, maybe lurking around the corner. It's a critique of how dependent we as a society have become on technology, but the critique feels a bit thin. The book is well written, a lot of the character development was good, however, the worldbuilding fell through sometimes; where a bit more fleshing out could really serve the plot.
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There's plenty of interesting ideas in this book but it didn't work for me as  the second part was a bit too confusing and the story fell flat.
Not my cup of tea.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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A compulsive near-future story of hope and survival. This Fragile Earth is set in a recognisable future London in which the world's reliance on technology becomes evident when gradually the computer systems everyone relies on begin to shut down, followed by electricity and water. As panic and chaos fill the streets, Signy does everything in her power to protect her family, including her bright young son, Jed.

This novel simmers with dread throughout and is helped greatly by world-building that feels so believable and authentic, even down to the type of food the family eat, that it's impossible not to feel like you're living Signy's nightmare with her. The family's fight for survival is full of tension, and Susannah Wise's characters are so well drawn that they transport you completely into this terrifying dystopia. Heart-breaking yet hopeful at times, this is a vivid, unforgettable novel.
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A novel set in the near future where bees are extinct and humanity is over reliant on artificial intelligence to run their lives. I have mixed feelings about the story as I was not keen on the mother Signy, her relationship with her boy and partner fractious and unrealistic. We live in a world where global warming is a threat to our future and the author was preaching to the converted. An uneasy read.
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Unpopular opinion, due to this nook getting a lot of 4 or 5 star reviews.

I knew this book wasn't for me when the MC came back home after having been out for four hours and found the contents of the fridge and freezer having partly gone off due to a power outage. Since the book is set in a world not too far into our current future this sounded highly unlikely, unbelievable actually. My freezer takes ages to defrost, even with the door open. 

I continued to read until 28%. I didn't like the MC; no, can't say why exactly. Her son talked like he was part time 4 years old part time 40. Her husband felt like a prop, so the MC had something else to be grumpy about.

I don't think the writing is good or bad, I had more problems with the unbelievable events (defrosting freezer, paying with a card although there's no power, not sharing water with their pregnant neighbour, continuing to surf the internet, using smart phones,...) that were used to get and keep the story going.
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"Some things are past, and will not come again."

Obviously technology is much further advanced in this novel than our current position BUT there were some scarily plausible points. A specific example really stuck in my brain, when the power shorts nobody can access their funds.
As a person that never holds cash in any form it dawned on me that I'd swiftly be without currency for food and water if something like that happened -even in todays society.

This Fragile Earth is told from Signy's point of view in third present. I didn't much care for her character's demeanor, her parenting or her role in the relationship with Matthew. 

The biggest irritant for me was the lack of continuity with Jed's voice. Wise has used Jed as a device for world building, we learn about future technology when he explains it to his mother. He doesn't know or understand words like 'negotiate' but can wax lyrical about coding and algorithms between hugging his stuffed bunny or playing hide and seek. 
Jed's vocabulary and mannerisms are like that of two completely different ages and whilst it makes sense that education is entirely different in their timeline, it just doesn't work;

****
‘Grandpa said TrincX is God moving across the face of the Earth."
’He did? How d’you remember all your chats? You were only three.’
'I told you, he told me before he died. He said it was terrible and important. [...]
TrincX is the birth of true Artificial Intelligence, he said. He said when the codes go from general-level intelligence to super-level, it will be only days, Mama, or even minutes, or even seconds. He said that day is going to be one of reckoning. He said TrincX is God’s daughter come to walk on Earth, but as long as you’ve been good to Gaia, nothing bad will happen.’
****

There are tense moments in This Fragile Earth through which I held my breath, but not enough of them. I thought the pacing in the middle slowed right down and the plot began to echo the usual tropes found in any dystopian novel. 
Travelling across country, scavenging for food and water, hiding from looters and sentient AI drones. Nothing new to see here.

By the last quarter Signy's narrative becomes a fever dream. Wise tries to give meaning to the destruction of the earth and possibility of a higher power but ultimately writes a choppy uninteresting jumble of metaphors.

As I'm sure you can tell by now I wasn't a fan of This Fragile Earth, despite it's well meaning connotations the whole novel was essentially a 'humans are bad, we don't deserve this world' scenario.

Snore.
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‘This Fragile Earth’ by Susannah Wise is set in the not too distance future, in a world controlled by computers.

Couple, Signy and Matthew alongside with their son, Jed are trying their best to get by in this new world where work is more scarce. 

Bees are also almost gone and London is now a different place that we are used to seeing today.

But things are about to get scarier in this already fragile world.

When the technology that is running the world stops working, London becomes more dangerous than anyone could possibly imagine.

They now find themselves trying to survive in this now dystopian world where everything we have come to rely on is no longer there.

They are now living in a world where tough decisions are having to be made. When the father goes missing, they decide to leave their home as they know it in the hope of finding him again. I absolutely loved the character of the mother, she isn’t afraid to stand up and fight for what’s right. But can they make it in this world where everyone is fighting for themselves?

But with the drones no longer doing the work for the bees, they soon start to return proving that we do not need technology to run the world and that it’s actually more dangerous to not only civilisation as we know it but wildlife too.

Brilliant, well-written story that had me gripped with every page. It’s a gritty but poignant read. ‘This Fragile Earth’ gives a very realistic view point on something that could theoretically could happen one day. It really makes you think as to what would happen if we let technology rule the world?
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This Fragile Earth is an interesting, readable novel that kept reminding me of the old dystopian/eco-novel Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart. The stories are totally different, but the tone of voice and the implicit plea to take care of our precious, fragile planet, are similar.

The story is believable (suspension-of-disbelief-believable, not realistic-scenario-believable) and the world-building is well done. The world is toxic, bees have been replaced by drones, many service providers (medical staff, police, etc.) replaced by robots. But in many ways the world is just as we know it. I like when futuristic novels are grounded in reality, and this novel does this well.

Signy is living in London with her partner Matthew and their young son Jed. In a moment, the world begins to descend into chaos when all electricity, water supply and machines stop working (that bit is believable, and frightening!). With no money to buy food (cards don’t work) and as people become desperate and violent, she and Jed head North (by bike) to go to her mother in the fictional hamlet of Warston.

It’s a well written novel with action, anxiety, hope and plenty of heart, that keeps you gripped from the start. It’s very impressive for a first novel. The eco theme comes across as genuinely heartfelt.

I’ve been addicted to dystopian novels since I was a teenager: I’ve read hundreds of them. After living through a pandemic now for more than a year and a half (and it’s not going away any time soon), while watching the climate go out of control (as I write, rain is bucketing down, in July, in a country already ravaged by floods a couple of weeks ago), this whole dystopia stuff is beginning to seem way, way, waaaayyyy too real.

Is it fixable?
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Was intrigued by this after hearing the author speak at online Gollanczfest; particularly the comparisons to John Wyndham. Ultimately I was frustrated that it began Wyndhamesque (cosy catastrophe) but ended up Vandermeresque (new weird). The first half of the book I found compelling and I found she was strong in drawing out how in an apocalyptic scenario other people can be both a source of kindness and a threat; as well as how tenuous acquaintances can be when tested.  However in the latter part of the book the style slides to unreliable narrator but in a way that I didn't feel paid off.  Some will like the weird imagery and non-realistic direction but it wasn't for me.  Can be dangerous when a book starts out in one style and ends up in another not to alienate the reader.
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This Fragile Earth's plot sounded exactly like my type of book. The concept of it being set as the apocalypse begins, rather than being in a dystopian future with no explanation as to how the world ended up that way, sounded original and intriguing.

The book centres around a couple and their son living in London as they make tough decisions of what to do for the best to keep their little family safe. I really liked the middling ground of some normality, like conversations with the neighbours, contrasted with lack of running water. It was a very realistic view of how things would go down, rather than descending into immediate chaos.

Unfortunately I just found the book moved way too slow to keep me engaged. I was really excited to see where it would go when I started out, but I couldn't get past the half way point in the end. The dialogue between the protagonist (Signy, the mum) and Jed was uninspiring and I found Jed incredibly annoying - maybe that's simply because I don't like kids! Mums may be able to relate to Signy and Jed's relationship more, but to me it really slowed down the plot and meant I just stopped caring what happened to the characters.

The book is described as 'very British' but I didn't find the dialogue to actually come across that 'British'. Jed referred to Signy as 'mama' all the time which I found odd as, at least up north, we use 'mum' and I've never really heard anyone call their mother mama unless they're very young. This contrasted with Jed's seemingly superior knowledge of the way the world works compared to Signy, she often seems baffled that her six year-old son knows more than she does.

I may come back to the book at a later date; it definitely had me asking questions. But I'm the type of reader who needs to really connect with the characters and on this occasion, I didn't.
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This has an interesting concept and is well thought out but I couldn't really get into it.

There's nothing wrong with it so I won't share a review elsewhere, it just wasn't for me.
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I loved this fabulous debut near-future SF novel, which deftly exposes our reliance on technology and automated systems while thoughtfully exploring the desperation of a mother trying to find a safe place for her son while dealing with her own trauma. While the story begins with the low key crisis of a couple no longer in sync with one another, the external tension builds as more and more machines, systems and people start behaving strangely, and society teeters on the brink of collapse. Wise skillfully balances the characters internal turmoil and the societal turmoil, and even though the story is often very tense, I really enjoyed the quiet moments between mother and son, which often felt peaceful. Unusually, and enjoyably for a dystopian novel I loved that the ending was unabashedly hopeful. A must read.
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Clearly the pandemic has got the literary world’s post-apocalyptic juices flowing. Every second science fiction book at the moment seems to want to imagine the end of civilisation. The problem being that there are only so many scenarios to explore and most of them have been done. So then the question is – how well does this particular author deal with the apocalypse and do they have a new way of telling this story or anything new to say? Susannah Wise’s debut This Fragile Earth, hits all the right post-apocalyptic beats but in a way that many readers of this genre will have encountered before.
This Fragile Earth opens on a slightly future London. Signy is out in the heat with her son Jed when the drones start to malfunction. Not too long after the electricity fails as do all of the computer-controlled cars. Her husband Matthew abandons his car and walks home and the three spend days trying to adapt to a new normal of no electricity, sporadic water, dwindling food supplies and growing unrest on the streets. It will come as no surprise to readers, particularly of English post-apocalyptic fiction, that Signy’s eventual journey of survival takes her into a silent but menacing countryside where she slowly starts to understand the reasons behind the chaos.
This Fragile Earth pushes a number of the usual apocalyptic buttons – the failure of technology, a possibly rogue or compromised artificial intelligence, the army being brought in but unable to maintain control. Layered on this is an environmental message – in Signy’s world the bees have died out and have had to be replaced by pollination drones but when the apocalypse starts, she starts to see bees again. This environmental layer elevates the material slightly but is itself a fairly common climate-fiction trope.
Signy is a resourceful character and there are some moments of real tension and tragedy in the narrative. Her son Jed is a little less successfully defined – oscillating between acting his age (around 5 or 6 – shouting “Hallo! Goodbye!” to his shadow) to being preternaturally intelligent (discoursing on The Golden Ratio). Other characters are fairly standard apocalyptic fare – including the violent thug taking advantage of the chaos, the friendly family heading in the opposite direction because they have heard it might be safer and the gang of countryside scavengers.
Those who have not dipped too far into the apocalyptic genre (and it is hard to avoid at the moment) should find enough to chew on in This Fragile Earth. But this is far from the best example of a genre that was already well established and seems to have exploded thanks to the very real events of 2020.
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This is a great read - set in a nearby future where suddenly the world seems to take charge. All utilities and communications go down, and Signy is left to struggle on with her family, as she tries to make it across the country on foot while avoiding the military.

Exploring themes of man's damage to the planet, machine learning and AI, and how we communicate with each other and the planet, this is a clever and gripping story.

I did feel that the pace of the story was somewhat too quick - all the action takes place over a couple of weeks and that felt too quick to me. Fans of Emily St John Mandel's Station Eleven will enjoy this - interesting how the front cover is very similar...
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I’m picky about my sci fi choices.  I need to feel they could happen.  In the future in London Signy and her family wonder what is happening when life as they know it stops.  There isn’t electricity or running water and there is chaos all around.  They makes plans and hope for the best.  They must deal with the “baddies”, the government and other forces. As reliant as we are on electricity and the internet, I could envision a version of this happening.
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I was reminded of an old Talking Heads song as I reached the final few chapters of this book. Spoilers prevent me from mentioning which one but I guess, if you know, you know!
So... set in a near-future England, we follow Signy, Matthew and their son Jed as the technology they have grown to rely on starts to fail. For reasons unknown, everything just stops working. Phones are useless, electronic payment methods fail, even getting into their home through the electronic lock is impossible. But it's just a glitch, isn't it? Things will be OK.
But then the power also fails and food starts to spoil. Transport, now electronic, starts to grind to a halt. Worse still, the water is cut off. With little understanding of what is happening, people understandably start to panic. To loot, to fight, and it all becomes a bit lawless. But all the time they are wondering why? Soldiers and Police try to keep order - to little avail. There is only one path for Signy to take - to try and escape London, to go to where her mother lives. There, they'll be safer. Or will they, given the journey necessary...?
The new world in which the characters find them selves in initially was easy to get to grips with. In fact I was a little jealous of some of the technology they were able to use. But then, as the book progressed I reassessed that and realised how satisfied I actually am with some of my Luddite ways!
And then when the penny dropped as to what was actually going on with the tech I thought the way it had been plotted was very well done. And then there's the in-between time, as the characters are coming to grips with the lack of the basic things they have taken for granted for a very long time.
There's a lot to be taken away from this book - some quite important messages - but nothing that came across as brow-beating. Just important reminders about what we have and what we need to do to keep it.
Characters were, on the whole, well drawn. I do have a few issues with the continuity of Jed with regard to his age. Which wasn't completely consistent or convincing. But I did take to Signy from the off so that redressed the balance a tad.
All in all, a good solid read that kept my attention nicely throughout, leaving me satisfied at the end. My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
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In a not-too-distant future, Signy, Matthew and their six year old son, Jed, live in London, in a world that's become increasingly dependent on technology. Drones have replaced bees, and policemen. Robots replaced waitresses and doctors. 
Then one day that technology starts to fail. At first it's small things - something wrong with their phones, or a drone behaving strangely - but soon it feels like the world is crumbling around them. Power and water are cut, and people are worried, confused, angry. As things go from bad to worse, Signy and Matthew decide to leave London, and head for the village where her parents live. Surely in the countryside things will be better? The first hurdle is to get there - without electricity there's no way to recharge the car and traffic is jamming the roads - but Signy is determined that come what may she will get Jed to safety- if such a thing can still be found.

In some ways the premise and plot here are familiar; civilisation is falling apart, and the only way to survive is to leave the city and head to the country where life is 'simpler'. Along the way there are obstacles to overcome, fellow travelers who you may or may not trust, and armed troops who may help - or not. It's different maybe (though there are slight shades of Josh Malerman's Bird Box) in that the main character is a woman, desperately trying to protect her child. Despite all the vaguely familiar tropes it is definitely gripping stuff, with plenty of tension, and a strong but relatable female main character. You'll definitely find yourself  siding with Signy against all that gets thrown at her. 
Just occasionally I wondered about the accuracy of incidents - how quickly the freezer defrosts, or how many miles Signy and Jed could travel in a day - and I wasn't quite convinced by the ending - things felt a little too easily explained away - but none of this really detracted from the book as a whole.
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I DNF’d this one. Despite loving dystopian/apocalyptic/climate fiction this book just didn’t gel with me.
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