As a long time lover of Private Eye and QI, it came a bit out of left field to hear that Andrew Hunter-Murray had written a post-apocalyptic novel. A dystopian thriller set 40 years in the future in which the slowing and eventual stop of the Earth’s rotation has led to crazy environmental changes and a huge crash in global population. Wait, what? This has so many parallels to my own novel, 2089, I bought The Last Day immediately!
And I wasn’t disappointed. Great story and characters. But it really was spooky in how much it reflected 2089, and to some extent also, 2089‘s sequel, The Mind’s Eye. The two imagined futures are not identical, or even particularly close. They’re more like two sides of the same coin – one a negative image of the other. It was intriguing to read and ponder on the similarities and differences.
The Last Day is set sooner after the great catastrophe, and the trials and tribulations of the Slow and the Stop (of the Earth’s rotation) are still raw in the minds of some characters, and much closer for the younger ones. In 2089, they’re much more events from history, like the current population might think about the Second World War. Where I wrote of an idyllic pastoral existence, where the all pervasive surveillance technology was implemented at the behest of an upbeat and positive community, Hunter-Murray plumped for a much more grey 1940s style bureaucratic authoritarian regime. Where the tech in his England of 2059 is much retarded, the structures of society are more closely recognisable to us. In my novel, these are flipped somewhat: where the tech is definitely beyond what is available today, the small village, local, subsistence farming lifestyle is much more medieval.
The stories both follow an outsider protagonist – one who has always been a little out of sync with everyone else – as they journey around the country, on a quest to save society, attempting to stay one step ahead of the authorities, and ably assisted by a confounding love interest. In The Last Day, the quest is resolved with a real twist that totally blew my mind. It was so well set up that I did not see it coming in even the slightest inkling. Brilliant! And rather like 2089’s, that conclusion begs for a sequel.
The topical questions raised in The Last Day, are different from those I raised, but Hunter-Murray does force the reader to address questions of political and moral philosophy, whose answers are needed right now. The difficulties, and difficult solutions that society have had to implement, when faced by a significant migrant crisis, are (I assume) deliberately discomfiting. I get the sense from the book that he is aiming to make the reader address and consider the moral maze of dealing with an all-encompassing disaster scenario. Read it. Muse on those issues. But don’t let those considerations slow you to stop!