Not long from now, in a recognizable yet changed London, Signy and Matthew lead a dull, difficult life. They’ve only really stayed together for the sake of their six year old son, Jed. But they’re surviving, just about. Until the day the technology that runs their world stops working. Unable to use their phones, pay for anything, even open the smart door to their flat, Matthew assumes that this is just a momentary glitch in the computers that now run the world.
But then the electricity and gas are cut off. Even the water stops running. And the pollination drones – vital to the world, ever since the bees all died – are behaving oddly. People are going missing. Soldiers are on the streets. London is no longer safe.
A shocking incident sends Signy and Jed on the run, desperate to flee London and escape to the small village where Signy grew up. Determined to protect her son, Signy will do almost anything to survive as the world falls apart around them. But she has no idea what is waiting for them outside the city…
Hi and welcome to my review of This Fragile Earth! Huge thanks to Anne Cater for the invite and to Gollancz for the eARC.
This Fragile Earth is set in a not too distant future. It takes the world as we know it, and our current global problems, and runs with it – think Black Mirror. Tech has evolved immensely, bees have been replaced by pollination drones, people have to wear UV glasses when they go outside. Naturally, these are things the reader needs to be told in order to appreciate what’s happening and I loved how Ms Wise goes about explaining this world she’s imagined. Rather than info dumping in the first few chapters, she uses a kid to do the explaining: six-year-old Jed is always chattering away, in the way kids do, about things he notices or commenting on stuff his teacher told his class about global issues. It all feels very natural, part of a kid’s routine and a mum’s exasperation (yes, darling, we know!) but after a while you realise just how much you’ve gleaned.
Tech is all very handy but, as anyone who has ever had their computer crash will know: when it malfunctions, you’re screwed. Imagine a world that’s even more reliant on computers then it is right now. A world where you don’t have to take your keys with you since you can unlock the front door just by using the palm of your hand. Robots take care of agriculture, policing and your health, and drones ensure pollination. Imagine all that tech starting to malfunction, acting weird, crashing. No more tech, no electricity, no water. Just how complacent has humankind become? And how will it move on from this?
Following this crisis and its immediate consequences, a mother and her son flee the city and make their way to their (grand)mother’s house. They are under constant threat: hunger, thirst, illness, and fellow travellers who have gone rogue and pillage and plunder to survive. It makes for very tense reading because you just want this little boy and his mum to be okay.
I do love me a good dystopian thriller and that’s exactly what This Fragile Earth is. I wouldn’t have minded if it had been a little bit longer, so that certain aspects might have got a little more elaboration, but still this is a solid apocalyptic adventure that does precisely what it should: captivate and fascinate, while making you ponder what if. If you enjoy dystopian literature, this debut should definitely be on your wishlist.
This Fragile Earth is out now in digital formats, hardback and audiobook (narrated by the author herself).