Welcome back to Six Degrees of Separation: a monthly meme in which you’re invited to link six books in a chain, with connections as logical or crazy as you like. This month, to celebrate the launch of my speculative-fiction novel The Ark, Emma and I chose to begin the chain with George Orwell’s speculative fiction classic, 1984. It seems to be well know that Orwell wrote the book in 1948, reversing the last two digits to choose the year in which his dystopian vision of the future would be set. Thank goodness, the world in 1984 was not quite as grim as Orwell imagined it to be, although the privacy and surveillance issues we increasingly face make me marvel at his prescience.
As it happens, The Ark, which was published a couple of weeks ago, which makes it, by my calculations, the year 2014, is also set in a future with the two digits reversed i.e. 2041. I would like to claim that this was an homage to Orwell or somesuch but it was a total accident, because the book was supposed to come out last year. Anyway, it is a happy accident and the first connection, (although The Ark is not actually in my chain – think of it as a bonus link!)
If you would like to know more about The Ark, visit thearkbook.com. If you want to get straight down to business, my links begin NOW:
Orwell has a very bleak vision of the future, as does Edan Lepucki in her debut novel California. Though the characters in Lepucki’s novel face very different issues, they are still, in some ways, controlled by a repressive ‘regime’, and to some extent, what they can and can’t talk about is restricted.
Also set in California, although a present-day version which is far more appealing, is Joan Didion’s My year of Magical Thinking, a heartbreaking memoir about the death of her husband and then her only daughter in the same year. Didion’s book and Ann Patchett’s novel The Magician’s Assistant both have magic in the title, and also both have scenes set in the Cedars-Sinaii hospital.
The main character in Dan Chaon’s Await Your Reply is not a magician, but he does perform some remarkable sleight of hand with regards to his identity. One of his tricks takes him to an abandoned lighthouse, which is also a key setting in Jeff VanderMeer’s novel Annihilation.
Annihilation centres around an expedition to a piece of land known as Area X. An invisible barrier has descended over this unremarkable piece of land, and a government agency is tasked with finding out what it is, where it came from and what the heck it’s doing there. Though it’s never stated, it’s implied that the barrier is alien.
Which brings me to Matt Haig’s The Humans, a gorgeous and touching story about the surprising adventures of a super-intelligent alien on planet Earth.
So there we are, from dystopia, through magic and hospitals to aliens among us. Who would have thunk it? Why don’t you head on over to Emma Chapman’s website and find out where her chain led? Then, post a link to your chain in the comments.