The Power – Naomi Alderman


Equality, prosperity and power are just some of the aims of feminists past and present – but what would a world controlled by women actually look like? In her fourth novel, author Naomi Alderman inverts traditional gender roles to create a world where women quite literally hold all the power and men tremble at their feet.

Love it or hate it, utopian and dystopian fiction has a lot to say about how people live their lives and the desires, dreams and fears that lurk under the covers of society. Dystopic works throughout the 20th century have explored totalitarian states, brainwashing, societal complacency and overpopulation. They reflect societal fears of a future in which too much power has been lost to the state, through the wonderful world of science fiction.

This genre suits feminist complaints by questioning the conventional exercise of power between the sexes, often delving into frustrations of women in a patriarchal society. Previous works explored the prospect of women-led civilisations in which gender roles are reversed or worlds where women live alone, having somehow discovered the secret to asexual reproduction.

There is a reason you don’t get many all-male utopias, but I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more novels that explore what a world would be like where women not only ruled, but ruled with power. So many science-fiction novels strived to illuminate societal inequality through exaggeration and role reversal, or the creation of purer, softer societies where women rule each other with soft hands, but I have yet to come across a book which inverts the status to devastating effect.

‘The Power’ is just such a novel.

Naomi Alderman’s latest novel is a manuscript written 5,000 years in the future, documenting the rising power of a female elite. The story begins with the ‘Day of the Girls’, when teenage girls across the world wake with a strange new power. It starts as a subtle throbbing sensation between the collarbones and crackles across the skin, filling the air with electrostatic discharge and the smell of rain and rotten fruit, before emerging as a spark of light from the tips of the fingers.

What would the world look like if men were afraid of women rather than women being frightened of men?

A slight warning, while not fully divulged in this review, the book contains one or two themes that some readers might find disturbing.

Through the guise of a fictional future researcher, Alderman follows the stories of four characters and how they are affected as the world begins to change. We meet Roxy, a tough, foul-mouthed daughter of a London crime lord who is out to seek revenge; Allie, a dual-heritage girl from Jacksonville who, having suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of her foster father, rebrands herself as charismatic faith-leader Mother Eve; Margot, the aspiring New England Governor along with her confused daughter Jocelyn; and Tunde, a plucky Nigerian journalist who strives to uncover the ugly truth behind the rising female power.

‘Men have evolved to be strong worker homestead-keepers, while women – with babies to protect from harm – have had to become aggressive and violent.’

A few videos emerge across social media platforms showing girls seemingly electrocuting men with their hands. The initial reaction is one of disbelief, but as more and more begin to appear, society is forced to attempt to address this strange new phenomenon. As childish tussles give way to deadly brawls and schools are forced to begin gender segregation, the very fabric of society unravels and young women are recruited to fight a bitter battle between the sexes that ravages Eastern Europe.

In Alderman’s present, electricity is no longer a thing of convenience, but a power to be held within the hands of women, to throw off the shackles of oppression. The future, however, is anything but bright, and all thoughts of equality are thrown to the wind. Ideas of a softer, more maternal society give way to hordes of women who rule with iron fists, as men are assigned their place on the bottom rungs of the ladder, forced into submission as slaves to the female race.

The storyline is complex and multi-layered, presenting a future where women have forgotten the male-dominated times of the past – the systems overthrown within the main body of text – and men are thought to be the fairer sex. This book is so much more than the latest attempt at a feminist dystopia. It is refreshing and insightful, combining a gripping storyline alongside an interesting analysis of societal ideas about equality and fairness within gender roles.

This review was first published on online for E&T magazine.

Some of my favourite fictional ladies, created by ladies

“Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.” ― Joseph Conrad

Over the weekend #womeninfiction emerged on Twitter, so in running with the theme I’m here to share with you a few of my favourite fictional ladies.

Renée Michel

The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery.

Elegance of the HedgehogRenée Michel is possibly my favourite literary lady of all time. She is a concierge, and self-confessed member of the lower class. Despite how she outwardly appears, she is in fact fantastically intelligent, but she knows her place, and sticks to it, stating that to be “poor, ugly and, moreover, intelligent condemns one, in our society, to a dark and disillusioned life, a condition one ought to accept at an early age”. Madame Michel prefers to lives a secret life, reading Russian literature in the privacy of her lodge while donning the air of a simpleton when speaking with the inhabitants of the apartment complex where she works.

In Renée, Barbery has created a fantastic female heroine for lovers of literature. I challenge anyone to read The Elegance of the Hedgehog and not feel themselves brimming over with admiration for the soft soul nestled within the prickly exterior of Madame Michel.

Petronella Brandt née Oortman

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

18498569Petronella is an 18-year-old Dutch girl whose family have fallen on hard times since the death of her father. She is married off to a wealthy merchant from Amsterdam, Johannes Brandt, but has a difficult time fitting into her new life. Petronella, who prefers to go by the name of Nella, attempts to be a good wife to her new husband, but is forever at the mercy of her stern sister-in-law Marin Brandt. Nella begins as a child, before all too quickly becoming a woman, when the crushing weight of her new family’s secrets is placed on her shoulders.

What is there to not love about Nella? In each stage of her growth she is simply delightful: innocent and charming, determined and strong, and finally, reliable and level-headed.

Jerusha Abbot

Daddy long legs – Jean Webster

9780141331119Jerusha Abbott, or Judy as she likes to be called, was brought up at the John Grier Home, an old-fashioned orphanage. At the age of 17, she find herself at a loose end, she has finished her education, and is no longer young enough to live in the orphanage without paying her way. Imagine her surprise when one of the John Grier Home’s trustees offers to pay for her to go to university. He will pay her tuition and also give her a generous monthly allowance; in exchange Judy must write him a monthly letter. Judy is told she will never know his true identity and must address the letters to Mr. John Smith, and he will never reply. Judy warms quickly to the trustee, gifting him the persona ‘Daddy Long Legs’, and writing warm, detailed letters each month. Judy dotes on her Daddy Long Legs, and, it appears, he on her.

Judy is an amazing character, gifted with the unique opportunity to turn her rags to riches. Read Daddy Long Legs and I’m sure you will find, too, that you fall in love with the little orphan girl and her extraordinary tale.

Geogianna Lennox

Dead and Buryd – Chele Cooke

dfw-cc-dab-cover-mid (2)Georgianna Lennox is a local medic on a foreign planet ruled by alien invaders, the Adveni. The native people, the Veniche, to whom Georgianna belongs, have become slaves in their own home. Georgianna is somewhat unique among the Veniche as her work allows her to tread within the realms of the Adveni forces, treating the sick and injured within the walls of the infamous Lyndbury prison. For Georgianna this is a way of treating her lost people, but it is not enough. When Georgianna’s friendship with a group of rebels risks putting her own freedom at stake, she is faced with a difficult decision – what will she choose to put first, her family or the freedom of her people?

Georgianna is a strong, determined character, but one I felt extremely comfortable getting to know. Cooke has created a character that is admirable, but also wonderfully human. I found her to be amazingly likeable and funny, despite her hard exterior.


Now the Day is Over – Marion Husband

9781908381811-frontcover (2)Are you sick of me talking about Edwina yet? If you are, shame on you, you clearly haven’t taken the time to read the book.

Edwina is the spirit of a young woman trapped between the  early 20th Century, and modern day Britain. Since her death she has lurked the shadows of her former home, critically analysing those who take residence within the walls. In Now the Day is Over she takes the form of super-omniscient narrator, haunting the house which was once hers, commenting on the lives of the adulterous couple who reside within her domain, comparing their existence to the life that was once hers.

I love Edwina because she is so all encompassing. She is deliciously genuine, admirable, maddening, terrifying and somewhat detestable all rolled into one.

Intrigued by any of my lady loves? You know what to do.

“Nothing saddens me more than seeing how quickly the dog grows used to its leash.” ― Marty Rubin

Human qualities

Lifeform Three – Roz Morris

Lifeform Three

Roz Morris lives in London with her husband in a house straight out of a booklover’s dream. Each wall is decorated with bookshelves, with each room serving as a different section of her personal library. Morris is a self-proclaimed ‘sucker’ for beautiful language and stories, so it seems fitting that her study serves as the fiction room of the house, with walls showcasing the most important novels in her life. Morris has worked as a journalist, ghost-writer, editor and writing coach. In the past she has published books on novel writing, including ‘Nail Your Novel’, which has been defined as a writing mentor and buddy in book form. After emerging from the shadows of ghost-writing, Morris published her first novel My Memories of a Future Life in 2011. Her second ‘nailed’ novel, Lifeform Three, was released in December 2013.

How would one define Lifeform Three? Scifi? Dystopia? Fantasy? Or perhaps, all of the above? In her second novel Morris introduces the reader to a future world, very different from the normalities and comforts of today. Paftoo is a ‘bod’, a creature made to serve the ‘intrepid guests’ of the last remaining countryside estate of which he is groundsman, the once grand Harkaway Hall. At first glance Paftoo seems much like the other bods around him, the renew bods, the dispose bods, and many other bods besides, all built with one purpose, to serve. Look closer, however, and there is something about Paftoo which makes him different, something which sets him out from the rest of the group. He seems unable to contend himself with the life of servitude offered to bods. When Paftoo begins dreaming, of times past, nightly rides through the woods and mysterious messages, he begins an incredible journey. Paftoo nightly antics aid him on the path of rediscovery of his memories, his passions, and most of all, his beloved lifeform three.

The world Morris has created within the pages of Lifeform Three is an interesting one. The book is set, almost exclusively within the grounds of a crumbling manor house, the little that remains of a once grand estate, which now serves as a tiny spec of greenery in a vast concrete jungle. The estate now serve as little more than a theme park for the inhabitants of the desolate plains which exist outside. These ‘guests’ are so much more unresponsive than those we live amongst today. They speed around in cars which drive themselves, forever glued to the screens of their ‘pebbles’. This world, which favours efficiency over tradition and production over nature, and in which animals are categorised according to the order in which they were domesticated, is the result of intensive industrialisation and capitalism:

‘The sea levels rose. Once people had liked to live on the coast or by a river, but now the waves came and licked their homes away. The government built flood walls and the population retreated inland. They needed new cities, factories, farms and power stations. Places to live. Bypasses to drive there more directly. Between the roofs and roads there was no room for countryside.’

I love a dystopia – and I would call this a dystopia – which plays on very real current fears. Like the New York City presented in Harry Harrison’s Make Room, Make Room, these kinds of worlds are all the more real, and terrifying, because there is a very real possibility such a world becoming a reality.

Now I would like to introduce you to our main character, Paftoo. Paftoo as you will already know is a bod, but he is different to the other bods though, and I think the first clue in this is in his name. The other bods are numbered, Pafonenine Pafseven, and so on, but he is Paftoo, not Paftwo. Does this suggest that he is different to the others? I like to think he is named this way because he is extra, not the second bod, but an additional bod.  His differences extend beyond the variation in his name, while during the day he picks up the rubbish left behind by intrepid guests, cleans up after the animals which roam the Lost Lands, he also thinks, and feels unsatisfied with his life:

‘To Pafnine and the rest, there is no future beyond the tally of scores at the end of each day. And then another day, numbingly the same.’

The bods are made to serve, and at the end of the day, when the sun sets and the intrepid guests go to wherever the intrepid guests go, the bods shut down. I found the idea of this quite disturbing, the thought of the robots just stopping, not sleeping or recharging, just staying where they are, open to the elements, is really quite sad. It seems much more pleasant to think of the grandmother in Ray Bradbury’s film Electric Grandma, who, at the end of the day plugs herself in to charge, sits down in her rocking chair and closes her eyes. This seems so much more compassionate to me. The bods are made to seem human, they are all different, with different haircuts and facial features, and yet they are not even given a place to be put away. And of course this is even worse when seen through the eyes of Paftoo, who himself does not shut down, but continues to roam the lost lands by night. The bods, standing around him in the darkness, or lying crumpled on the floor, wet and covered in leaves, is a horrible and depressing sight to imagine.

Paftoo does, he eventually discovers, have another reason for living other than serving the intrepid guests.  A desire he must keep hidden for fear of being forced into a ‘sharing’ with the other bods – a  ritual which promises to ‘make things better’ by deleting memories and rendering the bod a blank canvas, ready to question the meaning of life once again. When Paftoo beings to dream at first he is confused, but slowly, as he begins to uncover his lost memories, he realises what is missing from his ‘life’ – his lifeform three, Storm. The bond between Paftoo and Storm is unbreakable, so much so that the idea of being without him, even when he has only just discovered his existence, is enough to send him to the sharing suite:

‘Soon it will all be gone. He won’t have to worry about anything but the team and the chores.’

This brings me nicely onto my next point. What is it that makes us human? It is said that a robot is born to serve, and this is very much the case with Paftoo and the rest of the bods. But Paftoo has a decidedly human quality to him, his existence does not seem limited to a life of servitude, and he himself understands this:

‘If Paftoo’s cloud showed his true interests there would be only one; to look after Storm.’

The other bods do not have this self-awareness; they are not ‘interested’ in anything other than cleaning and achieving quotas. I’m reminded slightly of the house in Ray Bradbury’s There Will Come Soft Rains. There is something deeply saddening about a robot made to serve, which knows nothing other than what it is programmed to do. The bods care nothing for the decaying mansions left behind, just as the house in There Will Come Soft Rains remains oblivious to the fact that the people he was made to care for have been turned into piles of ash. While Paftoo can see the world changing around him, he understands that might lose his memories and it terrifies him:

‘The sharing has ripped something out of him. It robbed him of the individuality that mattered. It took away his memories of storm. Instead it gave him the empty routine the others call a life.’

I could go on, I would love to go on, but I feel as though I have already said too much. If I have piqued your interest enough to read this far, you should really read the book. Needless to say I really enjoyed it, and would highly recommend it. I am a little obsessed with dystopian fiction, and for me Lifeform Three ticked all the boxes. I found Morris’ style incredibly captivating, and the story itself had me reading on at the end of every chapter.

I am incredibly grateful to Roz Morris for supplying me with a free review copy of her book, and thus introducing me to the captivating world of Lifeform Three.

‘Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.’ — Robert Frost

Found prose poetry.

I actually stumbled across this idea on a teaching forum as a suggested homework for English literature students, still I liked the idea and gave it a go. As with all my obscure poetry so far, it’s fairly simple, but I think gives you a little more opportunity for being yourself than some of my past ideas.

The model is as follows: choose a piece of prose fiction; select a passage from the text; identify important words, phrases and sentences; arrange these excerpts into a poem. I think you can be fairly unrestrained with this sort of method, you could try choosing a specific structure and molding the text, or using free verse.  It’s also fine to rearrange order, wording and phrases, do whatever sounds most appealing to you.

I opted to use free verse and selected the final paragraphs from both books.

Here are the results:


1984 — George Orwell

He gazed up. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

He gazed up.
What kind of
Cruel, stubborn smile
as hidden beneath the dark moustache?
He had learned.
Tears trickled down his nose.
Everything was all right,
He had won the struggle,
He loved Big Brother.


Frankenstein — Mary Shelley

“But soon,” he cried, with sad and solemn enthusiasm, “I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace; or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell.”

He sprung from the cabin-window, as he said this, upon the ice-raft which lay close to the vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.

Soon I shall die.
I will no longer feel
these burning miseries,
the torturing flames.
My light will fade,
My ashes swept into the wind.
I will sleep.
Borne away by the waves,
Lost in the darkness.

My latest find is possibly my favourite so far, I really liked the freedom of constructing a poem in this way permitted me. If you find yourself at a loose end one afternoon give it a go, I’d love to see other people’s results.

As always, any suggestions for future methods would be greatly appreciated 🙂

“Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your nervous system. At any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom.” ― George Orwell

Don’t get caught.

Dead and Buryd – Chele Cooke

dfw-cc-dab-cover-mid (2)

Chele Cooke recalls always having books around her while growing up, but she truly realised her love of reading as a teenager, when she discovered the Harry Potter books. Her taste in books is varied, having grown from her initial interest in fantasy – ‘I’ll give anything a try at least once,’ she tells me. Cooke began writing through play-by-post role plays, which she says was akin to ‘learning to walk before I ran’, and being able to submerge herself in another world helped with her own writing. This, coupled with a degree in creative writing, was the catalyst that launched her career as an author. Dead and Buryd, was released in 2013.

Dead and Buryd takes place on an alien planet plagued by harsh seasons; searing hot summers that give way to inhospitable, freezing winters. The planet’s natives, the Veniche have found themselves the effective slaves of their technologically advanced invaders, the Adveni. Any Veniche who steps out of line is liable for incarceration within the walls of the Adveni’s impenetrable prison, Lyndbury.

Cooke introduces the reader to Georgianna Lennox, a local medic, who works alongside the Adveni forces, treating those injured within the walls of the prison as a way of serving her lost people. When Georgianna’s friendship with a group of rebels – the Belsa – risks putting her own freedom at stake, she is faced with a difficult decision – what will she choose to put first, her family or the freedom of her people?

The first two chapters of the book form a sort of prologue to the story, setting the scene and introducing us to characters that come into play later on in the novel. This introduction to the novel works really well, serving to spark questions in the reader’s mind and piquing their curiosity. The history of the planet and the natives is quickly skimmed over in these opening chapters, and is elaborated upon at points throughout the novel. Through this gradual method of unravelling, Cooke lets the history of her world develop in the reader’s imagination, revealing little snippets of the story piece by piece.

The novel’s setting, an unfamiliar planet occupied by inhuman, almost robotic invaders, really appealed to me. Not only was the way in which Cooke portrays the setting particularly masterful – her descriptions allow your mind’s eye to create an almost perfect picture – but the harsh summers and harsher winters made me think of an exaggerated version of our own world. It almost seemed plausible to me that Cooke’s dystopia could be a future version of Earth, a world where the natural environment has been irreversibly damaged to such an extent that people are forced to live in tunnels to escape the searing heat, unable to spend even a short amount of time in the sun, in the heat of the day without fear of burning. Needless to say I was intrigued enough by the book from the onset that I didn’t want to put it down.

There are several central themes running through the novel, the most important of which is love. Love emerges in Cooke’s work in many different ways, but ultimately, there is a love which is central to the Veniche’s existence that the Adveni seem incapable of feeling. The Veniche are described as a very sentimental people – they have a strong allegiance to their kind, their tribes and ultimately their family. Georgianna herself works alongside the Adveni so that she can treat those of her people who are trapped away from the ones they love. Above and beyond this allegiance, is the love the Veniche develop for the one person they choose to ‘join’ themselves with. Being joined is described as something very final, which you can never distance yourself from. The topic is first approached in reference to a relationship between Georgianna’s brother and the man to whom he was joined. Georgianna first learns what it means to love by witnessing the love the two men share:

‘Watching her brother with Nequiel, However, she quickly learned that it wasn’t about finding someone suitable to join with, someone you could live with. It was about joining with the person you couldn’t live without.’

It is as though each Veniche is only one half of a person, and there is another half without which they cannot become whole. This is evident in the way loss is described:

‘Her brother was no longer the same person she had grown up with. He was quieter, more reserved, and less willing to talk about anything important.’

The Adveni, on the other hand, are clinical in the very sense of the word. Cooke creates an army of invaders akin to the Nazi’s Master Race. The allegiance that the Adveni have to their group goes beyond the heartfelt commitment of the Veniche; they have an ingrained herd mentality, going about their lives in favour of the greater good.

‘Unlike the Veniche, who paired most commonly for love, the Adveni were put to numerous tests. If their tletonise – the Adveni way of referring to what the Veniche people knew to be the aspects of a person passed on to their children – did not pass these tests, they were forbidden from creating offspring.’

The Adveni mating ritual is an example of survival of the fittest at its most horrifying – a greater force deliberately manipulating breeding patterns to create an indestructible army. Tactics frighteningly similar to those used by the Nazi’s during World War II. The Adveni do not have that one person who they feel they cannot live without; rather, they are matched up with the person best suited to their genetic makeup. For the Adveni, love exists only for the greater collective good.

A lack of love for one another is just a slight crack in the hard exterior that is the Adveni forces. They are feared and hated by the Veniche. The title of the novel alludes to this; the Veniche used the phrase ‘buryd alive’ to describe those taken captive by the Adveni, alive in almost every sense of the word, but unable to escape: ‘Though your life was over and there was no escape, your body remained alive.’

I love the way Cooke expresses Georgianna’s fear of the prison and the Adveni guards. While she tries to keep on the good side of the guards, she is always terrified of what may happen when the doors of the compound close behind her. Her fear is, understandably, multiplied when she has reason to be afraid:

‘If she showed up acting suspiciously, they’d know for certain that something was going on. The problem was, the harder she tried to think about other things, the more the plan filtered into her mind. As she walked, her only salvation became that the Adveni had no mind-reading technology, at least not that she knew of.’

This passage really stood out to me as a perfect portrayal of the reasoning everyone goes through when trying to behave casually in a risky situation. It’s a feeling so many people will be familiar with, as though your mind is playing tricks on you, feeding you morsels of hope before making you doubt yourself.

I found Georgianna to be, on the whole, an incredibly genuine and relatable character. In Georgianna, Cooke has created a fantastically well-rounded vessel to convey her story. The reader learns about the planet, the people, and the struggle almost exclusively through Georgianna, but they also get to know the heroine on a very personal level. In time it becomes apparent just how normal Georgianna is. Despite her situation, her allegiance with the rebels, the things that she does, and even the fact that she is from another world, there is an aspect of her personality that a lot of people can relate to.

The most obvious demonstration of Georgianna’s real character comes out in her feelings about Keiran. Georgianna has fallen foul to one of those complicated casual relationships, which I’m sure many people are familiar with. The way that she justifies the relationship to herself is so transparent. She begins by suggesting that she is fine with the way things are, but she always comes back to mentioning that she knows Keiran is with other women, and that she’s fine with it [I’m fine! Who else is fine?]. As time goes on, and Keiran’s comings and goings continue to plague Georgianna’s thoughts, it becomes apparent that she is not so cool with it after all:

‘Weird was hardly the word she’d give to it. She’d maybe been a little more emotional, but seeing as Keiran has his wonderful reputation with women, surely this wasn’t the first time a girl had realised she wasn’t happy keeping their relationship at just sex.’

When Georgianna realises she might want more from the relationship, she cannot keep the sarcasm out of her thoughts – Keiran has a wonderful reputation with women. However, she still attempts to appear reserved, as though she does not want to show her true self for fear of being hurt:

‘Finally looking up at him, she shrugged a little. Clasping her hands tightly in her lap, trying to stop herself from fidgeting, she found herself drumming her fingers nervously against the backs of her hands.’

Georgianna really is just so likeable and funny, despite her hard exterior. Forming a relationship with the heroine of the story like this really added to my enjoyment of the novel.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cooke’s work. The story has some fantastic plot twists and enough unanswered questions to have me eagerly anticipating the next in the series. Cooke’s writing style is smooth and fluid, maintaining a unity throughout the flow of the story. I am not an enormous Sci-Fi reader, and I can be easily put off by the random and incessant introduction of unnecessarily complicated devices, but I found Cooke to be very accessible. While new terminology is introduced to the reader, it is done so easily, and with explanation, so as to avoid over complication. Dead and Buryd gets a resounding ‘would recommend’ from me.

I am thankful to Chele Cooke for providing me with a free review copy of her work, and introducing me to the Out of Orbit series.

“Europe is overpopulated, the world will soon be in the same condition, and if the self-reproduction of man is not rationalized… we shall have war.” ― Henri Bergson

Terrifyingly brilliant (Soylent green is PEOPLE!)

Make Room! Make Room! ― Harry Harrison


I bought this book while I was at university for a class I was taking on utopias and dystopias, but I was somewhat ambitious with the amount I expected to read, and invariably this one was left untouched, until now.

Written in 1966, and set in 1999 Make Room Make Room is a dystopian science fiction novel, set in New York City, which follows the lives of several characters, exploring the potential repercussions that unchecked population growth could have on humanity. Set in a future where New York has a population of 35 Million, the earth itself has a population of 7 million, and humanity is more or less on the brink of collapse. The city is overcome by overcrowding, resource shortages, crumbling infrastructure, disease, crime and poverty. The welfare state is no longer able to support the growing population, fresh food is a distant memory, water is rationed, social housing has been extended to include sewers and in times of crisis only the young are given medical care. Despite all this, the population of New York city is divided over the issue of birth control.

Harrison wrote ‘Make Room Make Room’ as a social commentary, with the underlying theme of the novel being the importance of sustainable development and population control. The bleak world Harrison portrays, is that of future generations left to deal with the wasteland left behind once all the natural resources are used up, and the earth is no longer able to sustain itself. The book opens with a dedication to Harrison’s two children Todd and Moira – ‘For your sakes, children, I hope this proves to be a work of fiction’. With the Earth’s current population having just reached 7 billion the book has proved to be a work of fiction – so far. ‘Make Room Make Room’ is a terrifying reminder of what could be waiting for our children real efforts are not made to move towards sustainable growth, and population control.

The Book really is truly excellent. Harrison is able to paint a bleak, desperate and depressing view of New York City, but without going off into long tiresome descriptions. Through the eyes of the characters that Harrison creates the reader is able to view the city, and get a real feel for atmosphere of this dismal future, which may not be too far away. The reader is transported into a place where the streets are lined with filth, the poor huddle together in stairwells and burnt out cars, and riots caused by food and water shortages are quickly becoming the norm.

Through his choice of characters Harrison was able to portray the problems faced by the wretched citizens of New York through several different perspectives, while ultimately keeping the underlying issues same: Billy Chung, the poverty stricken boy who is so desperate to escape he will do anything; Shirl, a girl whose only hope of escaping reality is her body; Andy, a police officer who works his fingers to the bone for literally nothing; and Sol, the pensioner who remembers the time before, but can do nothing to change the course of history. All the characters are helpless, helpless to undo the damage caused by those who came before.

‘Make Room Make Room’ really is an excellent, thought provoking book. I have explored a few dystopian novels and this is the first one which really hit home for me. Despite having written this book almost 50 years ago, the issues Harrison explores are incredibly topical, and while the world Harrison painted did not come to light at the turn of the century, there is every possibility that it could still be waiting just out of sight.