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An epilogue for mankind - 'Good Morning, Midnight'

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Evocative debut novel offers different take on the end of the world

Considering the glut of end-of-the-world stories that we've seen in recent years, you could be forgiven for thinking that there aren't any new tales to be told in that vein.

But you'd be wrong.

Lily Brooks-Dalton's debut novel 'Good Morning, Midnight' (Random House, $26) is a world's-end narrative turned inward, focusing not on the why or the how on a macro scale, but rather the internal impacts felt by those very few left untethered by global collapse.

Augustine is a brilliant astronomer who has spent his entire life striving to understand the stars. He has devoted all of his energies to that understanding, to the detriment of all other aspects of his world. His work is him and he is his work. He is wrapping up his long career working at an Arctic observatory, far from civilization one final project before fading away.

However, when a never-explained global catastrophe leads to a final evacuation of the research station, Augustine chooses to stay behind. With nothing left for him back in the world a world that has gone ominously, utterly silent - he opts for the isolation with which his work has always provided him.

Only he's not alone. A young girl named Iris mysteriously appears, with no explanation as to how she got there or where she came from. Augustine soon finds himself inextricably linked with the enigmatic girl, forced to consider the well-being of someone other than himself.

Meanwhile, in deep space, Mission Specialist Sullivan sits aboard the Aether, the first ship to ever undertake a manned mission to Jupiter. She and her crewmates are the first humans to delve so deep into space they've all made massive sacrifices in an effort to advance the cause of human knowledge.

But when her efforts to contact Mission Control or anybody at all on Earth go for naught, Sully and the rest of the Aether's crew are left to struggle forward. They have no choice but to head toward homeeven if there's no home left.

Alternating chapters relate the parallel stories of Augie and Sully, two people who have lived their respective lives in self-armored isolation now forced to open themselves up before everything up to and including the world itself is lost.

Augustine and Sully are coming from different directions in many ways, yet both are trying to reach the same place. Through Iris, Augustine is given the opportunity to right past wrongs and take a path other than the one that has left him with so many regrets. Sully, on the other hand, is part of a team a family that she simply can't push away like she did her own. Both are forced to come to terms with choices that they've made and hopefully find the strength to make better ones.

It takes a brave writer to leave the biggest questions unanswered, but Brooks-Dalton handles her unpulled threads masterfully. The truth is that what happened doesn't really matter. This book isn't about the nuts and bolts of humanity's end. Rather, it is about how two people in situations vastly different, yet somehow similar, deal with the looming reality of an Earth made empty.

We tend to think of the end of the world as a bombastic event, massive and rife with destruction. 'Good Morning, Midnight' gives us a different look; a death that takes place offstage, as it were. Not unimportant, mind you the consequences are obviously vast for all involved but something that took place at a great remove. Using something so big to force consideration of something so small creates an emotionally charged and engaging narrative that is nigh-impossible to put down.

Technically, this could be considered a post-apocalyptic story, but the truth is that Brooks-Dalton has created something much more poignant. Call it an epilogue, the last gasp of the human narrative before it all goes away. We don't know how the end happened or why; we just know it did.

Powerful and moving, 'Good Morning, Midnight' is an exceptional example of the literary power of speculative fiction. This is the first novel from Lily Brooks-Dalton; if we're lucky, it will not be her last.

Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 19:40

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