It's interesting to see how many mainstream, literary authors are writing post-apocalyptic novels at the moment. It's no mystery why. With global warming, terrorism, the end of oil and, now, the recession hitting the headlines every other day, people no longer enjoy the same sense of security that they had ten years ago. Every age has its neuroses, whether they are about God, sex, death or class. Ours is about the future.
Are we living at the end of this particular civilisation? If so, what are the causes? Can we avoid that same fate that has befallen every other empire in history? If not, what will become of humanity?
Published last week, Far North is the latest addition to the growing number of dystopian novels and has been compared to Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I'm not sure how valid that comparison is. Yes, civilisation has collapsed. Yes, the main character is on a quest to find a place of safety and yes, there are gangs of marauding bandits, but the similarity ends there. McCarthy barely hinted at the nature of the disaster and his novel was ultimately about the love between a father and son.
Marcel Theroux is more ambitious, daring to answer the big questions.
I've just finished reading a proof copy and the result is less satisfying than Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece, but Far North is still a cracking read which should appeal to a wide cross-section of readers. Theroux is a natural storyteller and doesn't allow his narrative to become hostage to the novel's central message.
Set in Siberia in the near future, Far North begins in the ruins of a city established by people who thought that they could flee the coming global crisis. The sole survivor, Makepeace, ekes out on existence by scavenging and growing plants from seeds found in an abandoned hardware store. Makepeace could probably survive this way until death, but somethings happens which changes the course of Makepeace's life and the story that follows is utterly compelling.
The experience had a huge effect on Theroux and he became firmly convinced by the environmentalists' arguments.
Two years later, Theroux made Death of a Nation - a documentary about
Once known as the 'third Theroux', Marcel Theroux says that he has learned to live with the fact that he was first Paul's son, then Louis' brother. However, on the strength of his latest novel, I wouldn't be surprised if he eclipses both of them in the future.