- 11 Mar 20
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Due to some cosmic misfortune involving a rogue white dwarf star, the Earth has ceased turning. A few decades later, civilisation is on the ropes and Britain – and Ireland, briefly mentioned as doing well - stands as one of the last inhabitable zones, with vast swathes of the European mainland serving as the “breadbasket”, where criminals are sent to work the fields. The good old UK have stopped at nothing to keep the unwanted out, deliberately sinking ships in the channel in order to from a blockade. There is a probably a potential thesis buried in here about some sort of reverse Brexit but let’s leave that to future PhD candidates.
As pitches go, the one for Hunter’s – a QI researcher as well as a popular podcaster – debut novel is a good one. As the world is both lost to darkness and burning in the sun’s constant glare, scientist Ellen Hooper tries to uncover the meaning behind a death-bed message about “the truth” from her former tutor Edward Thorne, a man who was once among the most powerful in the country, alongside the dictatorial Big Brother of a leader, Davenport.
Hopper’s quest drives the plot forward. As she traverses a decaying London, her encounters, whether it be with the accused being driven through the streets in Medieval fashion, former insiders living in desperation, or with her journalist ex-husband who works for one of the few still extant – although, for all intents and purposes, state controlled – newspapers, all cleverly fill in the details of life in a world ground to a halt. We also get some proper hiss-and-boo villains in the form of bad eggs Ruth Warwick and Inspector Blake, hot on Hooper’s trail.
As well as masterfully painting a world on the very brink of extinguishment – America and China are given up as lost to eternal night, there’s a new slave class, and you’d be well advised to stay out of the forests – Hunter's plot keeps the pages turning quickly until the very end. Now that the apocalypse is upon us, and we're all confined to our rooms, this dose of fin du monde fun will more than pleasantly pass the time until the final hour arrives.