There is something in the air at the moment. With the recent inauguration of perhaps the most controversial president in the history of America, and an uncertain road to Brexit in the UK, visions of a dystopian future are beginning to look disturbingly possible. Whatever side of the debate you are on, people are looking at the past, at our failures and our strengths; many drawing parallels with WWII, and the Cold War that instilled such fear of nuclear destruction. With books such as 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell, A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis rising to the top of the bestseller charts, and hearing about books such as Riders of the Purple Wage, we have looked through our list for a few genre suggestions from Bloomsbury Reader.
Science Fiction has long drawn inspiration from our past and present, tuning in to public concerns and current affairs, and imagining where these could possibly lead us. Fifty-First State by Hilary Bailey, who sadly died last month whilst editing the sequel to this book, and A Long Walk to Wimbledon by H. R. F. Keating both explore a UK in turmoil. In their two very different approaches, they explore where recession, rioting and public unrest can lead. Cloud Warrior, The Talisman Prophecies Part 1 by Patrick Tilley, the first in a series of six books also known as the Amtrak Wars, shows us an America that could rise from the toxic ashes of a nuclear apocalypse.
There is certainly something in the air – oily, gritty, and agitated. Is it fear, hope, social hysteria? Maybe it’s just the high levels of pollution hovering over London right now… Whatever it is, people are not sure what to expect next. Perhaps science fiction can help!
Bailey imagines a Britain in a severe recession where poverty is causing mayhem. There has been a sequence of short-lived hung parliaments and, due to terrorist bombs, repressive measures have been brought in by the power-hungry Government which fall especially hard on British Muslims.
Global security is also at risk when an election in Iraq brings in a fundamentalist government and it threatens to nationalize its oil. And the friendly partnership between the US and UK is over – destroyed by mistrust. Set in 2013, we can be glad this has not yet come to pass, but present circumstances seem to be drawing this reality ever nearer…
First published in 1978, this is a London where the worst has happened. There have been riots, huge uncontrolled fires, outbreaks of savage looting, artillery battles, mass flights. London lies three parts deserted, open to marauding gangs, its highways and landmarks tumbled like ruined temples.
To Mark, comparatively safe up in less troubled Highgate ( but let’s not even think about what it’s like south of the river), there comes a message that his estranged wife is dying over in Wimbledon, right across on the far side of the dangerous, devastated city. His journey is a story of adventure through the ruins. His immediate business is the simple one of pressing on through all the debris, always driven because he knows that Jasmine will die soon. He may never get there: he may be killed by idiotic accident, torn to pieces by the packs of wild dogs, trapped in one of the communes that within their stockades have established their own ruthlessly puritanical disciplines.
This novel looks far into the distant future, to a world where the nuclear apocalypse is so far in the past that they have forgotten it even happened. The Earth is divided between the Trackers of the Amtrak Federation – a community living in vast subterranean cities – and the Mutes, who have evolved to withstand the radiation that has driven their foes underground. A long war for possession of the overground has killed and enslaved many of the Mutes, leaving only the Plainfolk to resist the Federation.
Seventeen-year-old rookie wingman Steve Brickman is just about to graduate from Flight Academy. As a member of the Tracker society, Brickman has grown up deep underground, protected from the radiation of the blue-sky world above. The lure of this open space fills him with both fear and excitement, as he anticipates piloting his first mission against the sub-human Mutes. All does not go to plan, and Steve is captured by the hated Mutes, and forced to break through the layers of his indoctrination.
This is a fun science fiction adventure of epic proportions (think Top Gun meets Total Recall) and is the first instalment of Patrick Tilley’s internationally bestselling science fiction series, The Amtrak Wars Saga.