Out in pa­per­back

The Guardian - Review - - Fiction - Kirsty Gunn

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)

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