REVIEW: Is "Our Fair Eden" what lies ahead?

by Kyle Plantz | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 10 April 2015 11:30 GMT
The year is 2087 and the Earth’s climate is in flux, in this dystopian "climate fiction" tale

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The year is 2087 and the Earth’s climate is in flux. Manhattan is swamped by the rising Atlantic. The Amazon is essentially a desert. The Gobi Desert is now a tropical paradise and Europe is going through another Ice Age. Everything that once was is no more.

So what happens to the people affected by this tumultuous shift in climate patterns? The United Nations has the answer: colonies called the Eden Projects, allowing humankind to start over and develop new technologies to get out of this mess.

Desh feels lucky to win the lottery to live in Eden Prime, the most famous of the projects, hidden somewhere in Mongolia. However, when he arrives nothing is what it seems. He has to struggle against a corrupt system, plagued by stratified social classes that dominate the culture, all while being constantly watched by the secretive Texan leader, Mother Eden.

That’s the plot of Harry Manners’ not-so-distant dystopian mystery, “Our Fair Eden”, published in March - one of a rash of new "climate fiction" tales. Manners creates a world that feels plausible rather than impossible – a strength – and tries to answer a key question:  What would happen if climate change disrupted the world’s way of life?

“Our Fair Eden” is a quick, hard-to-put-down read that carries the reader along, wanting to know what will happen next. However, it’s thin on how the world got into the shape it is, how people outside of the Eden Projects are living, and what governments are doing to combat the problem.

Manners’s story is thrilling, with excellent writing and descriptions. “Extracts” from the main story give the reader a glimpse of how the Projects were created and how Desh ended up at Eden Prime. Some relationships could have been explored more – but Manners gives us a world that could exist.

The author only briefly touches on the actual climate change taking place in his fictitious world, using it more as a justification for his story than actually driving the plot.

That means the reader simply must accept that climate change exists, and that it affects everyone’s life. That’s not a bad starting point for helping people understand how climate change will affect everyone, and how climate fiction – like some science fiction – can become reality.

Could it encourage people to act now, rather than later, as the United Nations did in the story? It should at least help people ask: Is this the future we want?

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