Reviewed by Nicole Enya McPeake
Professor Bill McGuire’s Skyseed is an effective and direct warning of how not to combat climate change. Depicting the government’s poorly thought through decision to ‘hack the earth’, McGuire unearths the greed of today’s society, which always seems to choose capitalism above all else. A fix for climate change that looks good on paper, a lazy and idealistic process of releasing carbon consuming nanobots into the atmosphere, begins to work a little too well. The result? A planet that is racing towards another ice age.
This summer, Brits can agree on one thing: it’s a lot colder than usual. In Skyseed, we see what may become of our infamous British climate if we fast forward seven years. Spanning from 2028 to 2055, the novel captures a rapidly declining planet. Dystopian images of tornadoes in England, glaciers in the place the Thames once flowed, and the tragic relocation of the entire Scottish population to refugee camps as their once scenic home freezes over, remind us of what to expect if something isn’t done soon.
Climate scientists Karl, Jane and Ralph become the unexpected heroic figures of Skyseed as they attempt to unearth the guilty parties responsible for such devastating effects on our planet. Their warnings are rejected by people of power, such as imaginary, yet extremely believable, bumbling Prime Minister Duncan Bannerman, under the thumb of cut-throat American President Gort. At times, the characters come across a little one-dimensional, which perhaps prevents the reader from fully rooting for them throughout the events that take place. I wish we had a little time to get to really love them, before McGuire savagely rips them away from us, as he always does.
The novel takes a dark turn as the politicians behind ‘Skyseed’ try to cover their tracks, brutally silencing anybody who could reveal the part they played in the experiment that has taken a dangerous turn. McGuire uncovers the power and ruthlessness of mankind; in one act, the perpetrators of the ‘Skyseed’ decarbonization project can end the world as we know it. He criticises a humanity that has got carried away by excess and luxury, which now faces a choice between civilisation and the planet. The choice to maintain civilisation at the cost of a healthy planet may seem all too familiar to readers, and McGuire shows us how the wrong choice will leave us on a bleak and dying planet.
This dystopian novel ventures a little too close to reality, transporting us to a world that is believable, terrifying and confirms our very privileged existence on this earth. One wrong decision and I’m afraid we could also end up like the suffering masses of Skyseed, stripped of everything we remember as normal. Although occasionally simplistic, McGuire’s dynamic and fast-paced writing style should be applauded for creating such a realistic vision of our planet’s future. I’m left waiting on the edge of my seat for a sequel so that we can see if we survive or not…