Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

Climate change: the spectre hanging over every child, is the single most urgent issue of our times – and a challenge to any novelist. But how to write fiction about the Earth’s storm-filled future without a whiff of the pulpit?

Barbara Kingsolver’s paradoxical solution is to set her story on a sheep farm in the depressed Bible Belt. By recruiting traditional images of Heaven, Hell and sacrificial lambs to convey the impact of climate change on a community, an ecosystem and a species, the repercussions of man-made disaster lie firmly where they belong: in moral territory.

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The Prophets of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine

Now out in English, Leine’s astonishing, hallucinatory journey into the frozen heart of Denmark’s colonial darkness is inspired by events during the reign of the mad Danish king, Christian VII.

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Slade House by David Mitchell

“Tonight feels like a board game co-designed by MC Escher on a bender and Stephen King in a fever,” observes a spooked member of a university’s paranormal society in David Mitchell’s manically ingenious new novel, Slade House. It’s hard not to read the assessment as the author’s compressed verdict on his own Halloween-timed offering, but the book is much more besides.

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A Funny, Creepy Voyage for All Ages

In darkly interesting times, authors who can satisfy a previously unidentified hunger have the world at their feet. Writing as Lemony Snicket, Daniel Handler gave young readers a drug they didn’t know they craved until they tried it. The wild gothic of the Unfortunate Events series was the literary equivalent of a scorpion lollipop: a macabre treat.

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Top 10 Environmental Disasters

“Drastic change, danger, mass destruction, lives upended, radical re-thinkings of the status quo, new societal rules, moral dilemmas, the grinding physicality of daily survival … what’s not to love? Environmental cataclysms open huge imaginative possibilities for any writer– and reader – with an interest in big ideas and a penchant for the apocalyptic.”

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The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

In literature, nothing dates like tomorrow. The hypothetical readers of the late 21st century may look back on the Armageddon fixation of some of today’s dystopic fiction with an indulgent smile. But they may also be struck by how much of the political and physical landscape they recognise.

That the radically altered world on the horizon has already been envisaged by science presents a challenge to fiction writers conjuring humankind’s future: in an era of melting ice caps and military contingency plans, the issue is no longer what we can imagine; it is what we can’t.

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

“I wanted you to have an extraordinary life,” confesses Rosemary’s mother in Karen Joy Fowler’s wise, provocative and wildly endearing take on family love. Did no one warn Mrs Cooke to be careful what she wished for? Had she any inkling of the family cataclysm her innocent desire would engender, and the complex repercussions her daughter would suffer in its wake?

Rewind to the day back in 1970s Indiana, when narrator-heroine Rosemary is separated from her beloved “twin” sister, Fern, and sent, aged five, for a week’s visit to her grandparents. “I knew the winds of doom when they blew,” Rosemary recalls. She senses that she has committed a heinous crime, for which her punishment is expulsion from the bosom of the family. But no. On her return, it is the thrill-seeking Fern who has been dispatched – never to be seen again. There are no explanations.

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