Six Degrees of Separation

6 Degrees From Wolfe Island to Climate Change

This month we begin with Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar a novel I know little about except that the island in question is being destroyed by rising rising sea levels. 

I’m picking up that eco theme for my first book. We’re heading south in search of warmer climes. Our destination is the Caribbean. In Archipelago by Monique Roffey, a father and daughter flee their home on the island of Trinidad when heavy rains are forecast. They are still scarred by the family tragedy that occurred only a year earlier when a torrent of muddy water destroyed their home. As they sail via archipelegos along the Venezuelan and Colombian coast towards the Galapagos Islands, they see the damaging effect of tourism on  fragile natural environments.

My next link is to another novel which reflects on the issues of climate change. Riverflow by Alison Layland takes us to a small riverside community that rises up in protest at the threat their fields and woods will be destroyed by a fracking operation. Tensions mount as the rain beats down relentlessly and the river rises to an ominously high level.

Floods have sadly become a very topical issue here in Wales in recent weeks. Storm Dennis brought chaos when river levels rose to unprecedented levels, leaving thousands of homes and businesses under water. Environmentalist experts have warned we can expect these “once in a generation” events to happen more frequently as the climate warms up.

For days local newspapers, television and radio stations talked about little else other than the floods. But that topic has now been pushed down the news agenda by the prospect of a Coronovirus pandemic.

Which gives me my third link.

In Station 11 by Emily St John Mandel, the world is gripped by a flu pandemic so virulent its victims die within 48 hours. In a few short weeks Georgia Flu sweeps across the globe and claims the lives of 99.99 per cent of the world’s population. The few survivors must learn to live without power, mechanised transport or antibiotics. (talk of antibacterial hand washes, toilet paper and Happy Birthday to You on repeat cycle are long past).

I wish I could offer you something less depressing but it doesn’t get any better because my next book gives us something else to worry about: nuclear war.

The Last by Hanna Jameson opens shortly after a nuclear war destroys much of the Western world. Twenty guests at a hotel deep in the Swiss countryside learn the truth in text messages sent hurriedly by their loved ones in the destroyed cities. Cut off from the outside world and fearful whether help will arrive, when they discover the body of a young girl they are confronted with another fear: that one of them is a killer.

The Last is a locked room/dystopian fiction mash up. Unfortunately the mix of genres doesn’t work that well. The mystery of who killed the girl fizzles out and the dystopian element lacks true menace. The guests seem more concerned about food supplies than they are about the risk of radiation spreading to their part of the world.

Nevil Shute did a far better job of conveying the imminent threat of radiation fallout. On the Beach details the experiences of a mixed group of people in Australia, one of the few habitable places left on earth after a nuclear war.

As monitoring reports indicate the steady southward progression of the deadly radiation, the Australian government provides citizens with free suicide pills and injections so they can avoid prolonged suffering. They also despatch a submarine to track down the source of a mysterious and incomprehensible radio signal originating from Seattle, Washington.

Early editions of the book includes the most famous lines from T S Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men:

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Whether the future comes via a bang or a whimper, unless you’re a climate change denier, you’ll know the signs are not good. Fires; floods; melting ice caps; threatened species give us a general idea of the problems we face..

But the author of my final book in this chain argues that we don’t know the half of it yet. The situation is “worse, much worse, than you think.” says David Wallace-Wells,  in The Uninhabitable Earth. In short chapters he covers the brutal reality of problems like “Dying Oceans”; “Unbreathable Air” and “Plagues of Warming”. He deliberately sets out to shock – and he succeeded. Though short, it’s an intense read. By the time I got to the end I was in a panic.

And on that sobering note I think it’s time I brought this chain to an end. We started on one small island but ended up thinking about the future of the whole planet. I’ll try to be more up beat in next month’s Six Degrees chain.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

13 thoughts on “6 Degrees From Wolfe Island to Climate Change

  • Yeah, this chain did threaten to go to some real bummer places. And I keep meaning to reread On the Beach. Thanks for sharing.

    • It’s on my re-read list too but realistically it will be a long time before that happens

  • wow, that’s an intense chain, but so important. I really need to read The Uninhabitable Earth

  • That’s a great chain, although quite depressing! I haven’t read any of those books but they all sound very relevant.

  • Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    I love seeing where these end up! And your description of the pandemic in Station 11 gave me a good giggle – a welcome respite from the tension of searching high and low in the supermarket today for various household essentials that have apparently been “panic bought” out of living memory 😅

  • I like chains that have a common theme but this is such a depressing chain to read on a Monday morning, what with one thing and another. I don’t think I’m up to read them – especially The Uninhabitable Earth.

  • Hahaha! I desperately need some chocolate after that chain, but I don’t have time – I need to go out and stockpile some loo paper… 😉

  • I;m not sure you can be more upbeat with a book about surveillance and tyranny, but I’d like to see you try!!

    I nearly went the dystopian route with my chain, but I did go to dark themes too.

  • Post-apocalypse was a staple for us SF-ers for decades. My favourite is everything by JM Ballard who (metaphorically) saw the first atom bomb from where he was interned as a child alien in China, but On the Beach is another oldy but goody.

  • Nice to see Nevil Shute there… I had a real Nevil Shute craze in the 1980s, I read everything he wrote, just about.
    Have you read his A Town Like Alice? Alice is the affectionate name for Alice Springs in Central Australia, the nearest town to Uluru, though four hours drive away. The novel is a love story between two Japanese POWs and although it’s many years since I read it, I expect it would stand up well. My recollection of the love interest Jean Paget is that she was a strong and independent woman…

  • That was a really good chain but now I feel like jumping off a car park roof. ( Don’t worry, I won’t)

  • Well….that was cheery!!! 😱. Great chain this month!


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