Book Review: The Wall

Climate change has been on my mind since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was published last October. It predicted a likely 1.5 C rise in temperature between 2030 – 2052. That will hopefully be sometime in my lifetime. A change of +4 Celsius is predicted by the end of this century. I will be long gone, but I feel for my children and grand children. They will feel the brunt of it. All that I have experienced in my 50 years on planet earth is less snow in my birthplace of northern Michigan. However, I think more is coming. Reading the predicted effects of this rise in the report are concerning and I do not want to pass my later years and more importantly, the lives of my descendants in a greatly diminished natural world.

John Lanchester’s The Wall is set in the UK in a post-climate change future. It is sort of a science fiction book, but it is also an exciting thriller, with action scenes, a love story and a good plot. My only complaint about the book is I wish he would have written more! I will not spoil the ending, but I wanted to know more about what happens to the protagonists.

“The Wall” around Great Britain is to keep out “The Others” and all young people have a mandatory two-year service they need to guard the wall. If their section of the wall allows people over, they are set to sea. The story centers around a young man named Cavanaugh and his girlfriend Hifa.

Climate change has lessened the quality of life of all with rising seas taking away beaches and a lack of variety of agricultural crops. The younger generation has a real hate and disdain for the older generation that caused climate change. I think that was a bit unrealistic because climate change has been taking place for several generations and I don’t think they would be blamed. I read the book in less than a week during my bouts of insomnia an d highly recommend it!

Lanchester mentions the Elite, the ruling class of the future. They are the only people allowed to fly on planes and live separate lives from the majority of people. With income inequality as it is today, we are heading towards that future. I wish Lanchester would have written more about this class in the book.

But the thing I learned that week was how much nicer life could be if you had somebody else to do all the boring and difficult bits for you. Having Help was like having a life upgrade.

Lanchester, John, The Wall (2019)

If the Others survive getting over the wall, they are almost always caught and have the choice of being killed or becoming a slave (Help). Living these past five years in Japan with limited domestic help has made me understand this quote. I spend 2+ hours per day on chores around the house.

Age is a terrible thing, a terrible opponent. People of your time in life don’t understand this but you come to find it to be true, perhaps the only thing which is true for all humans everywhere, the terribleness of age. Our deepest piece of common humanity.

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