A dystopian future

29 January 2021

I read the first page of this novel and immediately found myself catapulted into a reality that feels somehow familiar, yet apocalyptical. Twenty-eight years from now and our predictions on the effects of climate change on the planet have horrifyingly come true, maybe even in the worst possible way. 

Water has become a rare, expensive resource in the hands of private companies; countries are on the verge of collapse; discrimination, oppression and racism pervade society in an uncannily similar way to what we witness today. The lives of three main characters are intertwined in the midst of this dystopia. A couple living in Africa, Graham and Lizette, who are also fighting to save their marriage, are affected by Lizette’s loyalty to her people. On the other side of the planet in Northern California, Arthur Green is fighting against corruption and inequalities. 

Artificial intelligence dominates the daily lives of these characters. We are introduced to Cyril, Graham’s neural rig, the latest tech advance, which may allow him to record what he sees, make and receive calls, and act efficiently, but it also puts Graham’s private life in jeopardy. 

Current political and economic issues are also portrayed in the book. There is the notorious wall between two countries, a president of the United States that no one dares to name, and a war being won by poachers who not only avidly guard their animal prize, but also some of the water reservoirs they control.

The style is fast-paced and captivating with several turning points generating a gripping suspense, and I felt like I experienced the novel through the eyes of each character. Nick Wood has created a compelling, vivid and almost prophetic sci-fi fiction that is extremely realistic to be labelled as ‘fiction’. He also effortlessly demonstrates his knowledge of the African continent and traditions which makes the novel all the more interesting. 

It feels as if Wood implicitly urges us to take charge, to take responsibility, to do something, right now before it is too late. Although this book can easily be imagined as a big-budget movie on the big screen, we do not need another film showing us the precarious future of our planet. Time flies and 2048 is just around the corner: we need to wake up, shake up and act now to preserve our home – this is what the book taught me. I am awakened, I am shaken, and I am acting now.

- Reviewed by Sara Pisani, PhD student at King’s College London