Climate Fiction: Must-Reads for Fiction Fans
With the recent dark evenings and unsettled weather, it’s the perfect time to put your feet up with a good book. Here we look at some of our climate fiction recommendations for those of you who enjoy the escapism of reading a novel.
The High House by Jessie Greengrass
The High House tells the story of a climate scientist who preps her house on a hill for the environmental disaster she correctly predicts is coming, with the aim of helping her family to survive. In this case the apocalyptic event is flooding of the surrounding land. The fictional setting is loosely based on East Anglia, which is in reality under severe threat from rising sea levels. So, although the story is fictional, the scenario is plausible in the not-too-distant future. The house is equipped with a vegetable garden, boat, generator and stockpiles of everything from clothes to medicine, as well as an aging caretaker with valuable skills. It’s a book that made me think it’s not a bad idea to be prepared for extreme weather events where you could be cut off from the rest of society/shops/energy supplies/medical help. It’s made me want to learn some more self-sufficiency/survival skills – I’ve actually signed up for a first aid course as a result! At the same time, it’s quite a sad tale that makes you question if you’d actually want to survive if your household were the only people left in your local community.
The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
This is a cli-fi novel set in the near future and follows characters in different countries in the 30 years from 2020. After successive COPs have failed and a devastating heatwave has killed thousands in India, the Ministry for the Future is set up to implement emergency solutions to avert the worst effects of climate chaos. The novel covers a range of issues that sadly could become reality, including geoengineering, thousands of climate refugees and ecoterrorism. I read this before COP26 in Glasgow and it turns out that the book was worryingly accurate in foreseeing the ineffectual outcome. Some reviews describe the book as “hopeful” but, although it’s a compelling read, I think it paints a terrifying picture of what could possibly happen if our “leaders” continue to fail to act.
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
Published 10 years ago in 2012, I read this book recently after it was recommended by Jessie Greengrass and Jonathon Porritt at the Marlborough LitFest. It’s quite long, but a page-turner. I was engrossed in the story of the lead character, an unhappy young wife and mum living on a failing farm in Tennessee and her discovery of monarch butterflies in the local area. The book touches on a wide range of themes, from climate change, logging and biodiversity loss, to consumerism, class, education and religion. I thought it was clever how the author writes about the global climate crisis in terms of its effects on a particular family and rural community. It’s scary that in the decade since Flight Behaviour was written, the plight of the monarch butterflies has worsened and the media reaction and interest towards environmental crises is much the same as it is portrayed in the book.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Winner of the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 2019, The Overstory is almost a collection of short stories about nine different characters and their connections to trees. As the novel goes on, the characters’ stories gradually become connected as they fight deforestation. I found this to be a very moving book which heightened my interest in trees and left me feeling incredibly protective towards them.