Page Count 400
Publication date June 2021
Not long from now, in a recognizable yet changed London, Signy and Matthew lead a dull, difficult life. They’ve only really stayed together for the sake of their six year old son, Jed. But they’re surviving, just about. Until the day the technology that runs their world stops working. Unable to use their phones, pay for anything, even open the smart door to their flat, Matthew assumes that this is just a momentary glitch in the computers that now run the world.
But then the electricity and gas are cut off. Even the water stops running. And the pollination drones – vital to the world, ever since the bees all died – are behaving oddly. People are going missing. Soldiers are on the streets. London is no longer safe.
A shocking incident sends Signy and Jed on the run, desperate to flee London and escape to the small village where Signy grew up. Determined to protect her son, Signy will do almost anything to survive as the world falls apart around them. But she has no idea what is waiting for them outside the city…
“Some things are past, and will not come again.”
Obviously technology is much further advanced in this novel than our current position BUT there were some scarily plausible points. A specific example really stuck in my brain, when the power shorts nobody can access their funds.
As a person that never holds cash in any form it dawned on me that I’d swiftly be without currency for food and water if something like that happened -even in todays society.
This Fragile Earth is told from Signy’s point of view in third present. I didn’t much care for her character’s demeanor, her parenting or her role in the relationship with Matthew.
The biggest irritant for me was the lack of continuity with Jed’s voice. Wise has used Jed as a device for world building, we learn about future technology when he explains it to his mother. He doesn’t know or understand words like ‘negotiate’ but can wax lyrical about coding and algorithms between hugging his stuffed bunny or playing hide and seek.
Jed’s vocabulary and mannerisms are like that of two completely different ages and whilst it makes sense that education is entirely different in their timeline, it just doesn’t work;
‘Grandpa said TrincX is God moving across the face of the Earth.”
’He did? How d’you remember all your chats? You were only three.’
‘I told you, he told me before he died. He said it was terrible and important. […]
TrincX is the birth of true Artificial Intelligence, he said. He said when the codes go from general-level intelligence to super-level, it will be only days, Mama, or even minutes, or even seconds. He said that day is going to be one of reckoning. He said TrincX is God’s daughter come to walk on Earth, but as long as you’ve been good to Gaia, nothing bad will happen.’
There are tense moments in This Fragile Earth through which I held my breath, but not enough of them. I thought the pacing in the middle slowed right down and the plot began to echo the usual tropes found in any dystopian novel.
Travelling across country, scavenging for food and water, hiding from looters and sentient AI drones. Nothing new to see here.
By the last quarter Signy’s narrative becomes a fever dream. Wise tries to give meaning to the destruction of the earth and possibility of a higher power but ultimately writes a choppy uninteresting jumble of metaphors.
As I’m sure you can tell by now I wasn’t a fan of This Fragile Earth, despite it’s well meaning connotations the whole novel was essentially a ‘humans are bad, we don’t deserve this world’ scenario.