Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂 I’m back with a review of a very special book, which I hope will make you curious enough to get a copy and read for yourself.
Despite years (nah, decades) of data and conversations regarding climate change (and just so you know, I’m firmly in the ‘the climate is affected by what Man does’ camp), it’s a subject which remains important and is still being widely discussed. One day no-one will talk about the Kardashians anymore, but we’ll still be talking about climate change, and we (or our descendants) will be living through it. That’s basically the focus of this book – climate change and its effects over the course of many years.
But this isn’t an overtly SF look at climate change, and as such, is a standout book among Titan Books’ catalogue of novels.
Clade uses a single family and their close friends and acquaintances as the character focus for a novel which explores how climate change could possibly begin affecting society and then, eventually, changing the planet. It’s a deeply personal novel, in that it delves beautifully into the personalities driving the strange narrative – these are characters which -although mostly met and explored in what I would call snapshots (in that Clade doesn’t feature a ‘main’ character, but rather many connected characters and narratives)- live and breathe and emotionally react during their lives and the events affecting them. They are obstinate and caring and passive and volatile and hurt and amazed, and much, much more. When I think about Clade, the only novel which is even slightly similar (regarding the mechanics of how James does what he does) is Max Brooks’ ‘World War Z’, because that novel was also myriad snapshots of characters as they related what they had lived through while also showing the reader how the world had changed. It’s a bold way to tell a story, even as the overall tale consists of many smaller tales which connect, but James did a wonderful job of it all. Not one character feels useless or extraneous, and each character not only explores the continuing effects of climate change but also reveals more about the central family and everyone connected to that family. So, you as the reader will be following a family through decades of climate change effects on the planet while also exploring issues such a autism and refugees, to name but a couple.
The novel flows steadily and beautifully and is filled with beautiful, concise passages which are deeply affecting and, as such, cross that very personal barrier directly into the reader – well, it’s how I was affected, in any case. This isn’t a race-against-time story, and yet the narrative is pervaded with a sense of time running out – but not in the way the reader would expect. Instead, because the focus is on a connected familial cast, the changes wrought by climate change force these characters to find ways and means to live with the new world, instead of fighting against it. So, please don’t expect a science-heavy SF thriller.
I am deeply impressed by this book, and by James’ willingness to focus on people rather than the crisis – it made the novel beautiful and sad and exhilarating to read, and when I eventually set it down, I knew I had found a writer who sees deeply into what it means (and how much it hurts) to be human while also being able to explore important scientific questions. I absolutely hate the term ‘literary’, but Clade is beautifully literary and accessible without coming across as pompous or highbrow. A really damned good book, and massive thanks to Paul Gill for making a copy available to me to read. Beautifully done, James – much respect to you.
10 / 10
Until next time,