(This is a sort-of spoiler-y review, because I don’t know how to separate my reaction to the book from what happens in the book. I mean, I could just give you a brief idea of what the book is about: Last man on earth and last people trying to get back to earth from Jupiter after a mysterious event has created some sort of apocalypse. And I could also tell you I adored it, that I found it moving and memorable and utterly captivating. But I can’t explain why without spoiling it a bit. So, read at your own risk.)
Books about apocalypse are sort of my thing. How does the world end? How do the very few survivors manage to survive? Will they be able to preserve humanity? Is it even worth saving? In the absence of social structures, do survivors descend into inhumanity or create something better? How does it feel to be at the end of everything?
(I have a theory that the current blossoming of post-apocalyptical literature (and dystopias; they are different, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!) are an expression of our deep terror about global climate change, nuclear destruction, and all of the other clever ways we’ve invented to destroy ourselves.)
It’s what I like about zombie novels, not the flesh-eating undead themselves, but what the living do.
Good Morning, Midnight, by Lily Brooks-Dalton, is about the end of the world, but it’s not exactly a post-apocalyptic novel. It tells two different stories: that of Augustine, a brilliant astrophysicist who chooses, when the Arctic outpost he is working at receives some vague news about some sort of world-wide problem, to stay at his post instead of being evacuated; and that of the crew of the Aether, a space ship that is returning from an expedition to Jupiter to a silent Earth.
This book was totally unexpected. I thought it would tell a sort of The-Martian-esque story, about scientists sciencing stuff and managing to save the world. I thought the people on the Aether would rescue Augustine and then solve the apocalypse problem and move forward.
I totally thought we would find out what happened to the world.
But none of those things happen.
So that’s what I mean when I wrote that it’s not exactly a post-apocalyptic novel. It isn’t a novel about people dealing with an apocalypse because the method of the end is never explained. Instead, it is a novel about people dealing with loneliness. Extreme loneliness, yes, and it is the byproduct of an apocalypse. But the apocalypse is only the method, the tool by which they are forced to struggle through this loneliness.
I loved this book so much.
It is part Snow Child, part Z Nation (there are no zombies), the tiniest bit The Martian, a little bit Station Eleven (more in tone than theme), with some The Dog Stars and just a dash of Radiance, but those are just the books (and one TV show) it was evocative of. It still felt unique, one of the books that will trickle into my thoughts for a long while.