Friday, March 1, 2013

Back To The Garden

by Clara Hume
Moon Willow Press 2012

Being generally concerned by the astonishing dearth of climate disaster sci-fi  I had a search around and came across Back To The Garden. Unfortunately I can't honestly say it's a great novel but I give it points for genuinely tackling climate disaster when so many other novelists apparently haven't realized the potential.

The story centres around Fran, a very nice young lady who lives alone on a mountain in Idaho. She's living self-sufficiently with only a couple on a neighbouring ranch for company. The "resource wars" were a few decades ago and since then there hasn't been anything you'd recognize as civilization. Fran's father has died and she hasn't seen her mother since she left on a trip to the South of America many years previously. It seems the climate apocalypse is ongoing but life is still pretty comfortable up in the mountains. Unsurprisingly Fran's getting pretty desperate for a boyfriend. I could almost see the novel developing into some sort of erotic romance at this point and I have to admit I kind of liked her myself.

Fran meets a man who turns out to have once been a famous Hollywood actor (I had my doubts about this, since it seemed reasonable to expect that Hollywood would have been destroyed during the resource wars). The other ranchers get attacked by a bear. They meet a few other characters and the perspective shifts every chapter to a different character. Unfortunately they soon meet rather a lot of characters and they all seem to speak and think in exactly the same first-person tone. It got pretty hard for me to differentiate the characters. The plot slowly builds momentum until they predictably go on some kind of quest across America. 

America turns out to be a huge wasteland strongly reminiscent of Mad Max. Murdering gangs roam about mindlessly. They continue to meet new people and nothing particularly exciting happens. Eventually they all head off back to Idaho together.

There's more than a few peculiar things in this particular vision of climate doom. I waited for the author to reveal more details about the climate apocalypse but it remained a vague thing that happened sometime in the past. The oceans are apparently polluted so severely that just a visit to the seaside leaves a person permanently scarred, but there's no explanation of how they got that way. Despite there being ostensibly no real shops or companies they still seem to have an endless supply of fresh coffee. They also seem to have functioning photo film and sleeping pills.

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