4 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
2020 has been pretty crap, to be honest. The pandemic spread around the world with startling rapidity and as I write this we are just entering lockdown for the second time in the UK. For some who have caught this virus, it is the end of the world, their individual world. But there are other things out there that scare people more than a virus, like the next asteroid, or the impending doom of climate change, amongst other things.
One of the most common types of apocalypse is the end of the world predicted by religions. A lot will be aware of the detail written in the books of revelations found at the end of the bible, but this is not a recent theme, as it can be found in other religions and even in the Norse mythologies. These are often tied into the return of a particular deity who with bring the end of days with them and amongst believers the belief that this will happen can be quite high. A lot of the reasons behind this end is a punishment for particular transgressions and is an opportunity for those in favour to move onto a better place. I have read lots of stories of those in cults who have trooped up hills expecting the end and a few days later shuffled back down again after nothing happened…
Science fiction is full of stories about worlds ending and one of the most popular genres at the moment is the Zombie one. Most of them are about these half-dead creatures that are intent on reducing you to the same as them. The lumber about, making them fairly easy to outrun, but I can see why these stories fill some people with dread. I am not a huge fan of zombie fiction, but of the few that I have read, The Girl With All The Gifts and the Boy On The Bridge by M.R. Carey are very good well-thought-out stories.
Having avoided the undead, Robert’s then confronts the virus. Well not just that one, but the real-life viruses that have changed and shaped humanity in the past. These have never been the end, we’re still the most populous mammal on the plant after all, but the fear of catching something nasty or unpronounceable is high of people’s fear list. This fear has seeped into fiction too, with stories about the end of civilisation captivating and scaring people in equal measure.
The end of the world as seen in films like the Matrix and Terminator occupy some of our fears, especially with the rise of AI that some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to give weapons to. Thankfully these ideas mostly inhabit the minds of science fiction writer as they can give people serious nightmares.
I must admit that the earworm that kept going through my head reading this was ‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by R.E.M. It is a good job I like the song. For a book about the end of the world it is actually quite upbeat and light-hearted at times, but not in a cynical way. He has a bone dry sense of humour, and I think that he is another Pratchett fan too! Roberts wants to take a look at our fears in a rational way with crystal clear analysis as to why we think the way that we do and the reality behind a lot of the scenarios described. He hits the nail on the head by saying the fear of a lot of people is our mortality rather than the world at large. We worth reading and it might even put your mind at rest too.