Saturday, July 30, 2005

The End of the World (or at least Worldcon): Chris Wooding, Endgame (London: Scholastic, 2000)

There is a sub-genre of children's science fiction which we might call Apocalyptic. These are not the same as disaster novels written for adults: whether written as thrillers or as sf, adult disaster novels are about human endurance, survival, quick wittedness or the ability to rebuilt the world. These novels are eschatalogical. In them, Armageddon is punishment for our sins, we are helpless in the face of them. The story is only ever about our repentance. The same is true even though these stories are essentially secular. Their heyday ran from the 1960s thu the 1980s and with the end of the Cold War I was rather hoping we'd seen the last of them, but from Chris Wooding (whose The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray was utterly brilliant) we have Endgame a novel which has essentially two stories: one, the collapse of the world in the face of an ice age and a nuclear war, and two, the story of five friends and how they face this.

The first story is told in news reports at the beginning of each chapter. The other story has very little to do with the first--the stresses and strains the five friends experience are actually about bullying, the threat of a patriarch, the not-quite-accidental death of a mother, and relationship problems.

The first story--the politics--is just too much kept in the background, and far too much dealt out as reports. I can see that part of what Wooding wants to show is the way the big events of history mostly go on in the corners of our lives, but unfortunately he has a talking head say so, which rather destroys it.

The second story just isn't terribly well written. We are told too much of the angsty stuff, rather than shown it--we get to be in every one of the lads' heads, and one of the girls'. And because the YAs don't actually react much to the threat of nuclear war (with the exception of the girl who goes on the useless demo) the helplessness of all of us is the overwhelming threat. None of this would be a problem--it is after all honest if it weren't so done to death. Truly, this is a type of book that you only need one of. How many times after all, do you need to tell people "repent now or the world ends."

As you may have noticed, I've not had time to blog recently. Or more accurately, to actually sit down and read. This is due to duties relating to the approaching Worldcon in Glasgow for which I was daft enough to volunteer about eighteen months ago. I'm off to the con a couple of days early so I can help with set-up and it seems sensible to take a short break.

I'll be back on August 10th.


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