The future doesn't always have to end in disaster...

The future doesn’t always have to end in disaster…

“I feel confident that through the long annals of human history plenty of people have regretted not making a greater effort to understand someone they loved.”

And so the new year begins, and where better to begin than two hundred years in the future. If the name on the cover is familiar to some of you, that’s because the Robert Llewellyn in question is better known for his portrayal of Kryten on the sitcom Red Dwarf, a show that I feel I should really enjoy, but have never really bothered with. Moving into writing science fiction seems quite a natural sidestep, and fortunately he does it well. So, time to crack my fingers and get on with this reviewing malarkey.

Engineer Gavin Meckler has just had an argument with his wife Beth and, not really sure what she’s annoyed about, he makes his escape to attend a meeting. He takes his electric light aircraft to his meeting, but on the way he encounters a bizarre cloud formation. Unable to avoid it in time, he flies into it where he finds a bright light and when he emerges from the other side, he finds he doesn’t recognise the landscape below him and all his electrical devices are fully charged.

Having no other option but to set down in a field of crops, he encounters the friendly locals who are fascinated by his flying machine. Gavin, however, is too busy being confused by the suddenly enormous amount of trees and fields in this part of the country. Taken to Goldacre Hall by a few of the farmers, all of whom seem far too old to be doing such strenuous work, Gavin soon discovers the truth, although he is not quick to accept it. It turns out that he has accidentally travelled in time and it’s 2211. The UK no longer exists as he knew it and it’s now called Gardenia, home to gardeners who have to grow food or they don’t eat, and society has done away with money, religion and the combustion engine. Stranded and with no obvious way to get home, Gavin begins to learn more about this new world, which seems utopian. This is a future where aliens didn’t invade, pollution didn’t take over and we weren’t all eaten by zombies. This is a future where humans, for once, got it right.

The book is actually a fond homage to William Morris’s novel News From Nowhere, in which a man from the 1890s wakes up to find himself in the 1980s which is, like here, a utopian paradise of sorts. Here, Llewellyn takes the idea and stretches us to two hundred years into the future to find an unrecognisable planet. It’s oddly comforting to read a book in which the human race isn’t struggling and where everyone seems happy and we haven’t destroyed the world. Maybe because we’re so used to dystopia, this gave me a weird underlying fear that something sinister was going on.

In terms of actual plot, there isn’t a huge amount here. More, we just join Gavin in his exploration of this new world and share in his discovery of how things like food, medicine, community, travel and energy work here. There’s a small plot about him falling in love with one of the women from this future time, and he also seeks out the living descendants of his ex-wife, who had remarried.

Gavin is quite an enjoyable character to follow, but in truth the book is really just looking at the potential future of Earth rather than anything to do with plot or character. Gavin just acts as our way in to this world. The history that occurs between 2011 and 2211 is also very well done and definitely plays up dystopian tropes but then suggests that humanity sorts itself out. Thanks to the modern methods of super fast international travel, we also get to see what has happened elsewhere on the globe. For example, America is no longer united and the Midwest is its own country that doesn’t let anyone in or out, especially if they’re not white, and China is an enormous economy with huge, sprawling cities and skyscrapers over five hundred storeys tall. We also find out a few tantalising facts about Africa and India.

Don’t take my mention of a minimalist plot as a complaint though, because it reads easily and is genuinely funny in places. Apparently all of the science shown has currently seen the light of day, but just not very widespread, which is very interested. It’s refreshing, as I said, to read about a world where humanity, for the most part at least, managed to sort itself out. The book is the first of a trilogy, and to be honest the whole thing feels a little bit like a prologue, as there’s a lot to set up here and it ends on a wonderful cliffhanger which means I will have no choice but to continue the series, and I look forward to doing so immensely.

For more of my writing, check out my debut novel The Atomic Blood-stained Bus available across the Internet for all eReader devices.