These New Novels Show a Natural World in Peril

These new fiction releases are oddly compatible tales of gritty heroines on long-haul journeys in a natural world on the brink of destruction. Where these bleak stories diverge is on the matter of redemption.

Each book places the relationship between humans and earth at its center, with different takes on just how screwed we are—in one, healthy wilderness is the last safe place to live; in another, we’ve almost totally destroyed it; in the third, it’s just becoming clear that nature is in danger.

You won’t find a totally happy ending in the bunch, but rather three different messages about how we let the destruction of the environment get this bad, the sacrifices required to turn things around, and the consequences of not doing enough.

Each story brings a naturalist’s eye to the Anthropocene; all together they provide a compelling, apocalyptic, and occasionally hopeful reflection on everything we stand to lose.

‘The New Wilderness,’ by Diane Cook

In this novel, Cook’s first, things are looking pretty bad in civilization—though we never see it, we just hear about its polluted and overpopulated state from people who have been allowed to escape. The novel is told from the perspectives of former home designer Bea and her young daughter, Agnes, who are among the few selected to live an experimentally nomadic life in one of the world’s last natural places, known as the Wilderness State.

‘Ruthie Fear,’ by Maxim Loskutoff

This novel sometimes veers into the realm of magical realism: Ruthie has a vision of a flying, skeleton-like creature while out hunting with her dad, while Rutherford tells his daughter stories of elk the size of school buses. “You hunt them with rocket launchers,” he says. “If you miss, they’ll skewer you on their antlers and toss you out into space.”

‘Migrations,’ by Charlotte McConaghy

The heroine, Franny Stone, lives in a world that seems just like our own. Except in this novel, it’s almost all of the animals—monkeys, apes, big cats, bears, and wolves—that are becoming extinct. Franny talks her way onto the ship Saghani and heads south, along with a colorful crew and a troubled captain, both parties in search of their own rare animal.

Complete reviews here…


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