Out in paperback
Reading Australian James Bradley’s “cli-fi” novel as large areas of Asia and the US are flooded ramps up the disturbing effect of its incrementally apocalyptic scenarios. Bird die-offs, mass fish deaths, wildfires and storms are just the beginning as Bradley zooms into the future via a sequence of linked narratives. The “clade” is the set of all the descendants of Adam Leith, a climatologist; each chapter centres on the next generation of Adam’s family, enabling Bradley’s predictions for Earth to fast-forward at Koyaanisqatsi -like speed while the human actors reprise their inherited traits of awkwardness, poor communication skills and attachment issues. The structure works well as a means of delivering human-scale stories against the backdrop of the most human story of all: our heedless despoiling of the home planet. Bradley’s deft merging of near-future predictions and cutting-edge science into a convincing setting for his family drama enables us to focus on the interactions between the characters. The apocalypse is happening, even as our messed-up lives distract us. Jane Housham US author Dana Spiotta’s latest fictional adventure is full of film references, essays and lists, putting information and theory in the place where in other novels “character” might reside. It opens with a young woman’s account of her affair with a famous Hollywood actor. She is Meadow Mori, a glamorous teenager who becomes friends with the more ordinary Carrie Wexler. Their shared love of cinema means they will end up making films themselves. Meadow creates rigorous documentaries, and Carrie shoots blockbusters with a feminist twist. The account of their friendship is satisfying – but by no means the only story here. Innocents and Others is also about looking, seeing, asking ourselves if we can ever really understand what makes a person tick. It’s as if the page we are reading is a sort of film in itself, flickering before us in a sequence of events and images. All we can do is look and listen as Spiotta pursues her own wonderful project.
Clade by James Bradley (Titan, £7.99)
Innocents and Others
by Dana Spiotta (Picador, £8.99)