The Last Day
By Andrew Hunter Murray. (Dutton, 384 pages, $27.)
Welcome to Earth in 2059. It’s not pretty.
Forty years earlier, the planet’s rotation began to slow. The climate underwent catastrophic changes, polar ice caps melted and unleashed floods that tore away coastal cities, and as the decades passed and the Slowing came to Stop, whole pieces of the planet were plunged into days of endless sunlight or relentless darkness.
As 2059 dawns, the world has come to grips with Earth’s brutal game of musical chairs, one that left Great Britain bathed in sun and the last habitable region. Food sources are slowly re-established, democratic social order has given way to authoritarian rule. Britain’s borders are sealed, leaving the rest of the world’s inhabitants to die in brutal heat or bitter cold. Those few survivors who somehow make it into the country are shipped to the fields to farm the food for the more fortunate.
Not to be extinguished, America made a self-preserving geopolitical deal during the Slowing and crossed the great ocean, setting up colonies in the southern half of Great Britain, abandoning the New World to rot in its frozen solace. An uneasy truce exists between the Americans and its British landlords.
Ellen Hopper, a marine scientist stationed on a research rig in the frigid Atlantic, has been called back as her Oxford mentor lies on his deathbed. His last whispered words set her on a dangerous assignment in the Dystopian streets of London. What she learns is a shocking secret that could upend Britain’s iron grip on the world.
The author, Andrew Hunter Murray, is a British comedian who has taken a dark detour with his first novel. While it’s a scientific fact that Earth’s rotation is indeed slowing (by milliseconds rather than minutes and hours), Murray has feasted on climatic hyperbole to produce a science-fiction thriller that is as provocative as it is troubling.
In the Land of Men
By Adrienne Miller (Ecco, 352 pages, $28.99.)
Former Esquire literary editor Adrienne Miller looks back on a pre-Sept. 11 New York, “the dying days of the golden age of print” and her romance with the late writer David Foster Wallace in her name-dropping memoir “In the Land of Men.”
“This is my story, not his,” she proclaims, detailing her Ohio childhood and offering a surfeit of pronouncements such as “There is wisdom beyond knowledge.” She got into the magazine world through the friend of a friend of a friend of a professor who told her she was “too independent” for grad school. What she found was a gantlet of boorish male behavior. After working as an editor’s assistant at GQ, she was only 25 when she got her “dream job” at Esquire.
At times, Miller’s writing comes across as intellectually self-conscious. Yet her descriptions of the sexism and #MeToo moments she encountered are chilling, and probably familiar to many working women of a certain age. The sparks fly off the page as she remembers her interactions with the decade-older Wallace. He referred to her as his “willowy, French-eyed girl” and told her that she would “be a stellar mother.”
After their ugly and inevitable breakup, he conducted himself in a petulant, caddish fashion, bad-mouthing her and killing off “some vague idea” of her in his unpleasant story “The Suffering Channel,” from 2004’s “Oblivion.” Yet they maintained a friendship and a professional relationship.
Miller has remained a fan of his, and of his writing, revealing a glimpse of the man behind the cult adoration. Anyone who has fallen for a brilliant and difficult paramour will relate.