The setting for Afterlight by Alex Scarrow is the UK, ten years after the oil ran out. It is a sequel to Last Light but can be read as a standalone novel. Like the first, it is a moreish thriller with the touch of frightening reality. After the oil crash there were riots, looting, murder and rape. Beacon communities were established, safe zones which eventually became unsafe. Now, only two remain. This is the story of what happens to them as survival and recovery phases into rebuilding and re-establishment of democratic government.
Scarrow recalls some of the main characters from the first novel – Jenny Sutherland and her two children – and introduces new people. There are flashbacks to the oil crisis which shows events from different viewpoints. Ultimately, this is a story of Them and Us which does at times seem stereotyped. Jenny now runs a community of 400+ living on an abandoned oil and gas rig in the North Sea off the Norfolk coast. There are rumblings of discontent with the strict rules, then a mysterious Belgian stranger arrives and a young girl goes missing. This story is interwoven with that of Adam Brooks, a former RAF officer, who was sent to secure London’s o2 Arena as a safe zone. Run by a civil servant and policed by a gang of teenagers with guns, it is far from safe. This segment of the story is the least satisfying. The link between the two places is Jenny’s children, Leona and Jacob, who set off for London. Jacob longs to see city lights, which he barely remembers, and Leona wants to return to the family home to die alone.
There are some big subjects tackled here. The functioning of the group dynamic in far-from-ordinary circumstances, the management of resources and long-term planning, and how to handle a crowd which hasn’t realized the food really is going to run out. These pressures challenge what it is that makes us human, in our preferences, tolerances, sacrifices and beliefs.
I confess to picking this up one weary weekend when I had re-read a chapter of a more worthy book. Afterlight was just the tonic. I read it in two days, curled up on the sofa on a snowy afternoon. I returned later to the worthy book, and enjoyed it too.
Here’s my review of Last Light.
If you like this, try:-
‘Midnight in Europe’ by Alan Furst
‘The Returned’ by Jason Mott
‘The Farm’ by Tom Rob Smith
‘Afterlight’ by Alex Scarrow [UK: Orion] Buy at Amazon
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AFTERLIGHT by @AlexScarrow #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2nG