Since the industrial revolution our lives and relation to the planet have been changing fast. And it seems that the pace of change is not slowing down but quite the opposite. The world is changing in ways we cannot imagine and most of us have a hard time keeping up, not to speak about imagining the possible consequences. What does the future have in store for us? Climate change seems to be an unavoidable disaster waiting to happen We don’t know what form this pending disaster will take. Will there be flooding as the polar ice melts? Will the temperature rise or will the Gulf stream slow down causing a small ice age? What will the lucky countries do if climate refugees begin flooding in? Close their borders or help those in need? Despite our extensive knowledge, the effects of climate change are impossible for us to predict.
Meanwhile technology is developing in mind boggling ways, but how to know what will do good and what will do harm? Will we use this technology to improve human lives or to cater to the whims of those with money to spend? And even when we aim to do good, do we really know the final outcome?
All these questions are fodder for the imagination of a creative writer. And there is plenty of dystopian fiction on offer lately. Last month, MaddAddam, the final part in Margaret Atwood’s trilogy of the same name, was released, and I purchased a copy and had it signed when Margaret Atwood came to Brussels some weeks ago. Oryx and Crake, the first part of he trilogy is my favourite dystopian/post-apocalyptic read, so I was pretty excited to read the final installment. But before that I read two other books set in the near future.
The Healer by Antti Tuomainen is a crime novel set in a dystopian Helsinki. It depicts a future that most climate change believers imagine might become reality one day. The Southern countries are flooded and beyond help, with immigrants swarming into the north. Even Helsinki is plagued by power cuts and a break down of law and order, but for the southerners it still represents a place of hope. Meanwhile those with enough money are moving even further north. In the midst of this chaos Tapani Lehtinen is searching for his missing wife, whose disappearance might be connected to a serial killer calling himself “The Healer.” The Healer is a gripping crime thriller, infused with a dark apocalyptic atmosphere.
In Sarasvatin Hiekkaa the author Risto Isomäki connects ancient myths of Atlantis, the flood and the threat of environmental disaster to form a fascinating ecological thriller, filled with interesting scientific facts, both about climate change and the marine archeology. Unfortunately this book is not available in English*. The book plays with the idea of the story of the Biblical Flood and the fact that similar stories have been told in several cultures. Perhaps a real flood gave rise to the stories? While two main characters discover an ancient and inexplicably flooded city, another character finds a threat lurking on the north pole. When the connection is made between the two story-lines, urgent action is needed to save the planet from another flood.
MaddAddam, finishes the story begun in Oryx and Crake (and if you have not read it I recommend that you do). The trilogy is set in a post-dystopian future, after the so-called waterless flood has killed off most of humanity, with flash back to the dystopian reality that set off the sequence of events leading to the disaster. Before the event, the world is ruled by giant corporations, whose employees live in secure compounds, completely separated from the dangerous pleeblands surrounding them. Scientist create various splices: pigs with human tissue for growing human organs, rabbits that glow in the dark, sheep that grow human hair. Meanwhile in the world outside the compounds, climate change has flooded cities and diseases spread uncontrolled. In the post-apocalyptic world a group of survivors live on whatever they can find, while they try to make sense of the new “improved” breed of human being created before the disaster. The final book is not action packed and did not blow me away like the first part did, but it was definitely a great read. It left me curious about what the future would have in store for both the original humans and the new and improved “Crakers”. And would the “Crakers” finally end up like we did? Because I doubt that it is possible to eliminate what makes humans bad without eliminating what makes us good in the process.