This Fragile Earth
by Susannah Wise
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Pub Date 24 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 24 Jun 2021
Orion Publishing Group, Gollancz
'[An] amazing futuristic novel . . . Do yourself a favour and a pick up a copy now. It's fantastic' Paul Bettany
'I absolutely DEVOURED this book' Aisling Bea
'Poignant and perfect' Christina Dalcher, author of Vox
'Hugely impressive' David Nicholls, author of One Day and Starter for Ten
'Excellent . . . tugged at my heart-strings in a sometimes unbearable way' Beth Clift, author of Last One at the Party
What would you do to protect your family if the world stopped working?
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.
But then the electricity and gas are cut off. Even the water stops running. And the pollination drones - vital to the world, ever since the bees all died - are behaving oddly. People are going missing. Soldiers are on the streets. London is no longer safe.
A shocking incident sends Signy and Jed on the run, desperate to flee London and escape to the small village where Signy grew up. Determined to protect her son, Signy will do almost anything to survive as the world falls apart around them. But she has no idea what is waiting for them outside the city...
'A very British disaster epic. Echoes of John Wyndham' Stephen Baxter, co-author of The Long Earth
'Superbly accomplished' Ruth Hogan
'Hugely impressive' - David Nicholls (Starter For Ten)
'Hugely impressive' - David Nicholls (Starter For Ten)
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 50 members
Compelling and taut with tension.
It is astounding that the science behind the dystopian vision of the future is so credible. The prose so crisply written that you journey alongside SIgny and Jed immersed in the eerie setting,
Adored Jed who is the sweetest little boy, so wise beyond his years.
Although at times horrifying and a stark warning. This tale brims with the beauty of love.
"What would you do to protect your family if the world stopped working?" This is the premise for Susannah Wise's debut novel "This Fragile Earth." Thank you to Netgalley, Gollancz and Orion for approving an advanced reading copy for me to review. I will try to keep this review spoiler free but as always, anything can be a spoiler to somebody.
From the first page to the last, this is a book I did not want to put down. The dystopian plot is quite simple and has been done before but the way it is delivered means it is going to stick with me for many months to come. For reasons unknown, in the near future, the world's electricity and water supply have stopped. Humankind quickly discovers that their once comfortable existence is a lot more fragile that they thought. A mother, named Sig is our eyes as we navigate this changing world with her six year old son Jed. The way the narrative is written almost commands you to keep going as you try and make sense of Sig's constant stream of consciousness. Sentences are short and increasingly fractured as the days progress coupled with the fact that the story is written in 3rd person. Everything you experience is through the eyes of one person which has you questioning what is real and what isn't throughout the story.
The setting is great. Most commodities and ways of life are very similar to our contemporary ones but technology seems to have progressed quite far. This is perfect for starting a story quickly as there is no need for massive info dumps (although there a a few smaller ones littered throughout the story about coding). There are nods to issues like climate change, job security and conservation without every being preachy - it's just part of their world. The way words are pronounced was addressed very cleverly too. At the start of the book, I was pronouncing words the way I would expect them to be said but later on, through characters correcting other, "less in the know", characters, I realised I had to change my internal voice!
For being quite a simple plot, and without any big action sequences, the story is intense. You live in the moment with Sig and so if she feels tense then by proxy so will you. There were a few times that things just seemed to happen because Wise needed the plot to progress but it was nothing major and something that can perhaps be explained by the overarching narrative. One of my favourite parts was the heart shown by one of the families that Sig and Jed meet. It is easy to assume the worst in people and indeed that is mostly what we get when the world stops working, but Sussanah Wise makes a deliberate point I think in showing a family willing to offer whatever they have, no matter how little because people can be good. We often see the worst, especially on social media, but here we have hope. And hope springs eternal.
The only thing that perhaps didn't land perfectly with me was the characterisation of Jed. He is six and is obviously meant to be a very clever boy while maintaining a simple language for his interactions with other people. This holds true until the author needs to get a point across about coding/computer programming and then all of a sudden, Jed is using an adult voice to explain it to his mother. Again it is hard to explain this without spoilers but perhaps if Jed was ten, he would have a more mature way of interacting with people while still holding an innocence that is vital for the story?
Overall, this was a book that I would highly recommend. It reads semi-autobiographically with a recurring focus on death and family, specifically caring more about someone else's needs than your own and what that strain will do to your mental health. There is also a theme of music throughout which as a musician made me very happy indeed. An exciting yet harrowing world with the narrative of a taught thriller and with a heart that is missing from so many stories.
8.5/10 - Do yourself a favour and pick this story up :)
Save the bees,