My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book grabbed me, pinned me down, and held me helpless – all in four pages of the saddest opening ever. It was brutal! How could I put it down after that? It would be an injustice to poor Timmy. Not that I wanted to stop anyway!
Abbott’s characters are confused and helpless and lied to, and their struggle to make sense of their lives is brilliantly portrayed. In a mix of trippy hallucinogenic impossibilities and obvious depressing reality, sometimes I understood what was happening while others I was lost. As the front cover suggests, a thing can still be recognizable even when it’s turned upside down.
The closing down of rural Australia, the selling of countries to the highest bidder, and a worldwide crisis of refugees isn’t a time warp to the future: it’s scarily realistic. With ‘just a jump to the left’, Abbott gives us a first-hand view of tomorrow, of faceless organizations conducting meetings and forming committees while we all slide into nothingness together.
But amidst all the doom and gloom, there is love, patience, understanding, and generosity. There are familiar human responses to relationship hurdles and stress – and there’s an underlying dark sense of humour: imagine this excerpt being read by John Cleese or the inimitable John Clarke and you’ll get a taste of what I mean:
The New Horizons Workgroups were under the supervision of the Housing Relocations Management Authority, which was under the administration of the Climate Assets Relocation Program, which was under the jurisdiction of the National Water and Food Security Taskforce, Emergency Bureau One, which in turn reported to the Bureau for Climate Impact Minimisation and Management, which reported, finally, to faceless and nameless shadows in the office of the President of the Republic of Australia, who were known only to themselves and absolutely no-one else, under threat of maximum-security imprisonment in accordance with the Water, Food, Land and Agribusiness Security Protection Legislation, article 74, subclause 126c, as the ERA Committee, which stood, people were told, for the Energising of Rural Australia.
Eventually the inevitable question arises: what do we do when there are more people in a world than that tired and abused world can support? In Soylent Green we ate them, in Torchwood we burnt them, and in Starship Troopers we sent them to interplanetary war: I won’t spoil which one Closing Down adopts but I will share that it’s perfectly believable.
This book feels like the prelude to Mad Max, in a style Stephen Baxter would recognize. It’s a book I hope our leaders read, or better yet, their children, because somehow we need to stop this from happening.
And on that note, let me leave you with one of the news banners for another glimpse of dark humour. Read into it what you will!
Death Toll Rises As Heatwave Continues Across Western Europe; Tornado Smashes New York City And Sea Wall Breached Again In New Jersey With Hundreds Missing; Record Cold Snap Across Southern Australia; Summer Cricket To Return With State-Of-The-Art Indoor Stadiums In Australia And India; Confused About Your Medical Bills? Information Session In Dining Room 2pm Tomorrow; One-Currency Talks Resume; Former First President Of The Greater Americas Loses Appeal Against Death Penalty
** Hachette Australia gave me a copy of this book for free – this is my honest review