LAST ONES LEFT ALIVE BY SARAH DAVIS-GOFF

 
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Last Ones Left Alive” takes us far away and brings us straight home in the same moment, asking the dreaded question: if it all ended in this moment what will be the legacy of the world we are creating right now?

Sarah Davis-Goff is co-founder of Ireland's Tramp Press, quickly becoming one of the most well respected independent publishing house on the island, the imprint has gone from strength to strength and has certainly made a fan of me as well as many others in the bookselling trade.

Last Ones Left Alive, is Davis-Goff's début novel. In it she tells the story Orpen, newly orphaned and nearly alone she is trekking across wastlandic Ireland, in an unspecified time in our future. A virus has stripped the world of most of humanity devolving us into beast like “Skrakes” in what is the first of a number of highly insightful and oddly nostalgic homages to Ireland’s mythology and current culture.

The book begins with mysteries abound, and a dual-narrative serves to fill in some of the blanks while we follow Orpen from Ireland's western coast towards the East and the sanctuary of Phoenix City. A name many readers will throw heavy assumptions into from its first mention. I would not hesitate to call it a literary, action-adventure, horror. Where Orpen's badass nature, complex and often stark prose, and (for all intensive purposes) zombies, meld brilliantly into a gripping narrative with enough pace and intrigue to keep you turning the page.

Orpen's journey takes us through locations that many of us know, and is abound with cultural references that will make you chuckle. Particularly it is telling how none of the characters can decipher the strange writing underneath the English words on road signs. But, Orpen rarely dwells on her landscape, bar her constant vigilance for attack, which leaves the readers at one with her own anxiety. Playing both with and against expectations, the feeling of impending doom is sown through masterfully to keep you hopeful and cynical from breath to breath.

But despite the horror of seeing the desolation of a land I actually call home—a sensation which the prevalently foreign location of previous ventures into this genre could not induce—the most disconcerting thought I had throughout the book was the mirror it held up to the present day. If the world ended tomorrow, and few humans survive, what pieces of our current culture and systems would be passed on to those left behind? What would a new society built from the mistakes of this one resemble? Davis-Goff takes some of the worst of us; and much can be gleaned from how her fictional society takes both the bodies and the rightful anger of its women, and uses them against them. And yet, all the people we encounter throughout the novel, bar one poignant exception, show us all the warmth and strength that is the best humans have in us.

Exciting and engaging, with a fully authentic world, Last Ones Left Alive rewards the reader and is exactly the début we looked forward to from the author.



 

UTOPIA FOR REALSITS BY RUTGER BREGMAN

 
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Perhaps a bit too real for most realists, Rutger Bregman's daring stance on our possible future will leave you gagging for the world that could be.

One of my favourite kind of books is one that seeks to defy categorisation. Once that blend philosophy, history, current affairs, and others, into something powerful and meaningful. This is possible both within fiction and non-fiction. As there are plenty of books that blend both these categories as well, we know that this is hard to do right, and it takes both skill as a writer, and acute understanding of your subject matter to do it correctly. But, this is what Utopia for Realists does brilliantly, and with dash of Optimism as well.

Rutger Bregman has come to greater renown following a damning tongue lashing he gave the assembled philanthropists at the annual meeting of the Global Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But his ideas are much older, though Bregman and those that agree with him are blessed with the hindsight of years and the data from past experiments to base their “new” theories.

In an often funny, and dramatical straight forward manner, Bregman lays out what the future of our planet could look like, if we just embraced the reality of our situation.

In Utopia for Realists, we learn the story of Basic Income (which I'll go into in a moment), but also discover so much more about working life, and the quality of the very lives we lead. As Bregman states fro the outset, we (in the majority of the western world) now live in a version of Utopia. Many of things out reach for ordinary people 150 years ago, are now, for the most part, widely available. Things like, medical care, free education that lasts through our entire childhood, and sometimes much longer, and access to huge varieties of food would make any person plucked out of time believe they had arrive in a promised land.

But this is not what this book is about, because Utopia is not a destination that you reach. A true Utopia is something always strived towards, an idea worth reaching, together. And that is what this book is about, the next step.

What is Basic Income? Bluntly put, for dramatic effect, its giving people free money. And when you read it first it sounds so ludicrous you keep reading largely to see just how mad this book is going to be, but then, its not mad. We're mad. Utterly. Because the facts, are right in front of our face. We just can';t believe the reality. Bregman separates out economics, current affairs, psychology, technology, and ecology, and then shows the lines that are drawn between them. Telling the story of how a 17th century idea, can work now more than ever.

A good non-fiction book can make you laugh, make you mad, shock you, and most importantly educate you. And this does all of these things among others it would just be gratuitous to list. It as enjoyable as it is accessible and I defy you to not become obsessed with.

In the end this is a Philosophy book, but in its essesnce it is a lesson in how to use our greatest capital. One that we squander so easily, and are perhaps most desperate never to squander: Time. And I'm glad I took the time to read it.