Doggerland by Ben Smith

4.5 out of 5 stars

In the North Sea, a wind farm stretches for thousands of acres; the coastline, or what remains of it is far from here. Two men are responsible for maintaining all of these turbines, one younger is called the boy, though he has outgrown that title now. The other is the Old Man, who has been there for almost longer than he can remember.

Their work is continual, changing batteries, cogs, bearings and motors and moving from their accommodation rig to the turbines that need repairs. Every now and again they are visited by the pilot who brings tinned food for them and hopes to trade things. The work is mundane and tedious, the Old Man for amusement trawls the sea to collect the things are being washed past or to bring us ancient remains from Doggerland far below the service.

The boy was sent there by the company to replace his father who worked there before him and who vanished one day. He has many questions about why and where he went, but there are no answers forthcoming from the Old Man. Until one day he finds a clue that he has been looking for as to what happened to his father.

This dystopian novel set in a seascape that is harsh and utterly unforgiving. It has a haunting melancholy about it as the sea gradually claims back to turbines and it is written with a sparse precision that allows you to fill in the gaps in your mind. The three characters are strong, yet their feelings and thoughts are elusive. I really liked the world that he has created. I liked the way that he has linked it back to the ancient land that stood beneath the waves that still reveals itself every now and again. Yet it seems to be the last throw of the dice building this vast farm of wind turbines in response to some unknown climate disaster and yet it has come to nothing as the civilisation that it seems to have mostly gone. There are several threads in the storyline that were not really concluded and yet I didn’t mind that, as it portrays the ambiguity and complexity of this bleak future world. It reminded me of Stillicide by Cynan Jones which I read last year. It could almost be set in the same world.

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  1. Annabel

    I have this on my shelves. I just have to read it now!

    • Paul

      I hope that you enjoy it too

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