When this book arrived at my doorstep, I was immediately intrigued – not because I had recently been struggling with my mental health and everything did feel like the end of the world for a hot minute, but because I rarely get sent books from publishers and the cover looked so cheerful despite its slightly grim title. A huge thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for sending a review copy of this novel my way – let’s get onto the review!
Everything Feels Like the End of the World is a collection of short speculative fiction exploring possible futures from an Australia not so different from our present day to one thousands of years into an unrecognisable future. At the heart of each story is the anchor of what it means to be human: grief, loss, pain and love. A young woman is faced with a terrible choice about her pregnancy in a community ravaged by doubt. An engineer working on a solar shield protecting the Earth shares memories of their lover with an AI companion. Two archivists must decide what is worth saving when the world is flooded by rising sea levels. In a heavily policed state that preferences the human and punishes the different, a mother gives herself up to save her transgenic child.
These transformative stories are both epic and granular, and forever astonishing in their imaginative detail, sense of revelation and emotional connection. They herald the arrival of a stunning new voice.
As the blurb kind of explains above, this novel is essentially a collection of many short stories with a similar theme throughout where characters are going through moments and journeys in their lives in a distant or not so distant version of Australia.
As an Australian (almost 15 years of living in Melbourne), I was surprised by how well the Australian landscape was incorporated in the book because I’ve previously found some Australian stories overbearing in their ’australianism’ and trying too hard to convey how Australian the setting of a book is. However, this novel depicted Melbourne and other Australian cities so honestly and made it easier for me to imagine and visualise certain parts and locations without feeling thrust into a nationalistic environment. I think a lot of that also has to do with one of the main themes throughout all the short stories and that’s the real threat of climate change.
All the stories incorporated blunt and sometimes detailed descriptions of what the environment has become in the future as a result of climate change and the fact that the Australian setting wasn’t emphasised insanely made this message hit home even better as this is a problem we’re all facing no matter where we live. I admit that reading this novel has made me a little more anxious about what our poor planet is facing but most of the stories also incorporated an element of hope. Whether it was drought or flooding of a city, the stories showcased the lives of human people battling adversaries and continuing on.
”They’re beautiful,’ she said, ’There’s so much possibility when a thing is unfinished. There’s space to imagine what could be.’Else Fitzgerald – Everything Feels Like The End of The World
I personally really enjoyed the varying lengths and thought-provoking concepts in each story. Some were very futuristic and reminded me of Black Mirror style episodes, and some were simpler but carried strong messages that dealt with grief, love, having to deal with changes in life and no matter who you are, your story matters.
Fitzgerald managed to write an incredible amount of detail, in speculative stories that were sometimes only two to three pages long where I could still completely immerse myself in. All the stories are different and largely unrelated, and this short format made it interesting as I had no idea what I was going to read next, or more importantly, what version of Australia I would visit next.
My only gripe with this novel was how it was often pretty sad and solemn (obviously impactful for its climate activism) as it rarely had moments of true happiness in the present, but more so nostalgic happiness of what was. I would’ve loved to see people thrive in a future Australia like a little ray of sunshine to give us a bit of hope that we can overcome this horrid environmental disaster and make these stories flourish even more.
Otherwise, I highly enjoyed this novel and found myself hooked to it for the better part of the week that I read it. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something new in the fiction department, particularly if you enjoy apocalyptic, futuristic stories and human connection throughout it all.
Let me know if you’d read this novel or what your thoughts are on speculative fiction?
Until next time,