Sunday, July 5, 2009

Post-apocalyptic Settler Thriller Fiction

It's cold up north: And pretty dismal in the future.

It's a genre unto itself, the tale of just how bad the shit will hit the fan in the near future. Think "Mad Max", "Escape from New York" and "The Day After", or just think Kevin Costner. His films "The Postman" and "Waterworld" were, whatever else you might want to say about them, pretty archetypical the way this line of storytelling goes.
"Far North" by Marcel Theroux slots into all this quite nicely. But there's a twist here, in that the protagonist has been brought up by exactly the kind of people who are more or less expecting the apocalypse.
Makepeace Hatfield lives on her own outside of the almost entirely empty town Evangeline sometime around, I'd guess, 2060. Evangeline is one of a handful of settler towns established by Americans, mostly religious ones, in Eastern Russia. For a while, it seems, life was one really long "Mother Earth News" fantasy, part greenhouse ecotopia, part nineteenth century American frontier.
But then, it seems, climate change takes hold, states fail, and the settlers are inundated by hungry, violent migrants.
The storyline itself in "Far North" is made up of the stuff that these kind of novels usually are made up with. Makepeace meets other people, is enslaved, escapes and so on. The normal stuff.
What makes the book interesting are some of the insights in the inconsistencies in the mindset of all who dream of an independent life, close to nature and possibly to God. The main moral of this story is that it's easy to be virtuous with a full belly, considerably harder if you're hungry. Makepeace herself has a kind of thin-lipped integrity and somehow manages, most readers will probably feel they would not do quite as well.

Marcel Theroux
Far North
228 pages, faber & faber

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