Book Review: 1/2986 by Annelie Wendeberg
1/2986 is an intense and compelling climate change thriller. As the book (and series) progresses, the emphasis is more on the thriller aspect than on the climate. Even so, since the main premise of the plot and setting revolves around a post-collapse scenario explicitly linked to climate change, this novel is an excellent choice for any climate fiction fans who love a good thriller.
The story starts out shrouded in mystery. A teenage girl who has endured a hard life in a small village is facing her transition into adulthood. It takes time for the details to emerge, but the world has gone through some tremendous collapse decades ago involving a plague that killed off most of humanity. Her village has a few basic amenities such as food, shelter, and some degree of electricity. But they are clearly more isolated and more subsistence-based than most of today’s towns and cities.
Her problem, though, isn’t with her village so much as it is with her childhood full of abuse and suffering. As she faces the transition into adulthood, she doesn’t want to go on living — but then a mysterious stranger offers her a chance at a completely new direction in life.
Some aspects of the plot and setting may sound like the trappings of a cookie-cutter dystopian young adult fiction novel — a post-collapse society, a more primitive way of life, a troubled teen looking to escape the pain of her current life while grappling with the broader realities of a dystopian society. But 1/2986 stands out for at least two reasons: the inclusion of interesting and relevant climate themes, and the believable and compelling story of the main character.
This isn’t a standard climate apocalypse tale where sea level rises, cities sink beneath the waves, and society collapses as a result. The main character doesn’t live on the coast, and doesn’t remember the pre-collapse world anyway, so the emphasis is more on other consequences of climate disruption — specifically, disease, war, and the general breakdown of social order in response to a gradual crisis that suddenly spiked in fatalities once a certain tipping point had been reached. The main character herself doesn’t know all of the details, living in an isolated village and all, so there’s some great exposition along the way as she naturally learns more details about what happened in the past that lead to the deaths of most of humanity.
Her personal story is also very dark and intense, but in a very meaningful and believable way rather than the vague teen-angsty way that many young adult characters come by their dark and brooding persona. The more of her story she reveals, the more intense and tragic it becomes, while still feeling very compelling and believable rather than overwrought or sensational. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who is triggered by descriptions of abuse and violence, unless you’ve reached the point where you want to read detailed stories about survivor characters. The main character is a survivor, and some of what she has experienced (and may yet experience) is horrifying. But if you’re looking for a thriller with a main character who has survived a great deal, and continues to survive even more, this is the novel for you.
The main down side that I see to this novel is that the action of the story doesn’t really revolve around climate change per se. By the time the main character is coming of age, climate catastrophe and societal collapse is old news. This story is a thriller about personal and societal struggles taking places in a world that has already mostly collapsed decades ago. However, it does still explore some really interesting and detailed ideas about climate catastrophe along the way, and it definitely works as a compelling thriller. I couldn’t put it down while I was reading it, and I ended up bing-reading the entire three-book series.