By Lauren Carter

swarmLauren Carter knows the end of the world as we know it won’t be pretty, with Hollywood stars walking around looking slightly scruffy, or tribes of healthy, happy locavores growing their own veggies and respecting the earth. Instead, it’s more likely to be the kind of thing described in Swarm: a gradual but dramatic downgrade in our standards of living that will leave us all (or at least the 99%) cold, sick, and hungry.

The time is the future, sometime after peak oil and an economic meltdown have taken civilization back to the Stone Age: a world without WiFi or even electricity and running water. People don’t often bathe, their clothes fall apart, and they eat rotten food and get sick and die. In chapters that alternate between flashbacks to life in the “City” and a hardscrabble existence on the “Island” (loosely based on Manitoulin), the narrator — an activist named Cassandra — gives a very personal account of the ugly slide of collapse. It’s not often you see the future rendered in such earthy detail, even in dystopic SF, and it’s a bit depressing to think that this may be one of the more realistic recent imaginings of the shape of things to come.

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