The lost cause

THE LOST CAUSE By Cory Doctorow

HeadOfZeus, hb, £18.40

Reviewed Christine Downie

I looked forward to reading this book and was certainly not disappointed. Set thirty years in the future, the world is in the terrifying grip of extreme climate change, and society has become polarised into factions. Some are working towards climate solutions and saving as much of the world, and its people as possible, others are rich enough to find ways of saving themselves and still others are fighting to keep what they have at all costs in the face of overwhelming catastrophe.

The book centres on Brooks, living with his aggressively MAGA (Make America Great Again) grandfather in Burbank, California. Their relationship is fractious, and the opening chapters illustrate the contrasts between right-wing conservatism and social liberalism through these two characters.

As their relationship begins to break down, other forces pull Brooks out of the claustrophobia of his domestic situation and into the wider problems facing Burbank. An influx of refugees is expected soon. A flotilla of yachts and other maritime vessels also approaches. Wildfires are burning across the state, and the local government is paralysed with inaction. Contingencies need to be made for the refugees, as emergency supplies and housing need to be organised. But the MAGAs are opposed to this sudden expansion of the population of Burbank and are getting organised to stop it, including arming themselves and planning a bombing campaign. Throughout the tussle of bureaucracy, red tape, politics, unsympathetic police, and dangerous old white men, Brooks and his friends try to make sense of what’s happening and how to deal with it.

This book is a damning indictment of the current state of politics in the USA and the legacy it will leave for the generations to come. It refers to the way the judiciary and local and national government work, and if you are unfamiliar with American politics, this might leave you floundering now and then. Plutocrats and fiscal policies also play heavily in the storyline. However, the author manages to keep the narrative trotting along at a good pace, and because it centres on the experience of Brooks, the book does not become a political polemic but rather a heartbreaking tale of loss and anxiety for the refugees and a coming of age for Brooks. There is humour in the story and a lightness of touch here and there that breaks the tension of events.

I really enjoyed this book. I would heartily recommend it to everyone to read, as it realistically portrays the future that awaits us all over the course of the next few decades. In giving us the story of Brooks, Doctorow has laid out the madness of political wrangling and stagnation but given us the hope that future generations will have the strength to change the world.

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