In these deeply troubling times sometimes the only sane get away is to imagine how much worse it could be. Or read about something worse and realise how hauntingly close the present is, and get very cross and up on your activism pedestal. These are my favourites:
Lionel Shriver: The Mandibles
If you haven’t read anything by Lionel Shriver FIRST read We Need To Talk About Kevin. It’s a masterpiece and one of my favourite books of all time. However, The Mandibles qualifies as the second Shriver book that I have had to read whilst walking. This turns heads when I’m ambling past Catford’s chicken shops. The Mandibles chronicles an upper middle class family from 2029 to 2047. The dollar has plummeted and become a closed currency. Water is rationed. Starvation begins to set in. The family are all too recognisable as their comfortable lives are torn apart by the death of the American dream. (Shout out to Mandy Masters for the recommendation!)
Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale
I’m probably the only person left who still hasn’t watched the TV show but I WAS THERE FIRST with Atwood’s incredible novel. I remember finishing it and landing in New York and being thoroughly freaked out by the eye scanner at security. THEY HAVE MY DATA. This is a world where religion has become governmental policy. Unheard of? Women’s only purpose is to breed. Offred’s flashbacks to her previous life makes the descent only too real and only too possible.
Naomi Alderman: The Power
A protégé of Margaret Atwood’s, Alderman’s The Power is BRILLIANT. One day teenage girls discover they have the power to electrocute people with their bare hands. And the world is transformed. Will make you question all the assumptions we have about gender and POWER.
Emily St. John Mandel: Station Eleven
A virus wipes out 99% of the population. Cue lots of serious discussion from my side with Mr H: What’s the plan? What if it happens when I’m at work? Do I head home? Should I meet you at Mum’s? Every time I am away from home- particularly if I’m not travelling with my nearest and dearest- I worry it might happen and I can’t get back. Genuine anxiety. Written through interconnecting characters, this gives a surprisingly beautiful view of humanity. You’ll love it.
H.G Wells: The Time Machine
One from the English degree archive- an inventor propels himself through a time machine to the year 802,701. Mankind has evolved into two species, the pretty upper world Eloi and the terrifying, tool handling underworld Morlocks that live in darkness and hunt the gentle grazing Eloi.Class anxiety yes. And also a thrilling late Victorian novella. With cannibalism.
Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
A quintessentially English boarding school setting, but the reality is much darker. These children do not have the future they imagine. The film with Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan is also well worth a watch. If you’re into this kind of thing I’d also recommend the film The Girl With All The Gifts.
What are your recommendations?