Rise and Shine by Patrick Allington

‘The end, when everything seemed lost, turned into the beginning.’

Two city-states are all that have survived after eight billion people have perished.  The world is now so environmentally toxic that there is no longer any food.  So how do the survivors, living in the city-states of Rise and Shine survive?  By watching televised footage of their perpetual war.  Their emotional responses to violence sustain them.  Except that, once a survivor becomes desensitised and can no longer respond with appropriate emotion, they begin to starve to death.

The two city-states have annual peace talks:

‘PEACE: not this year, maybe next year.’

But it is all a charade.  In the meantime, a small group is secretly (and illegally) trying to grow food from seeds.  They are hoping to establish a non-toxic alternate food source.

We do not know what disaster befell the world.   Everyone has a theory or two about what happened, but who can you trust?  All we know is that the world is almost entirely bereft of animal and plant life, and there is toxic rain.  Nothing is simple: if you cannot trust your leaders, who can you trust?  Survival becomes a matter of existence from one day to the next.

‘Each of them had taken a city and declared a war of survival on the other.’

But thirty years later, amidst the carefully orchestrated appearance of a new normality, dependent on a perpetual war between the two cities it is not clear how much longer long the current state can survive.  Science is important, as is medicine.  But maintaining the status quo is the point, and that hardly facilitates any progress.  Is there any hope for the future?

Mr Allington packs an entire world into fewer than 250 pages, and it is very unsettling.  Why?  Because aspects are believable.  Look at the damage we are doing to the world, look at the disinformation that surrounds us.  Look at our reactions to the current COVID-19 pandemic.  What is ‘the common good’?  And who can we trust?

Unsettling reading.  A brilliant novel.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith