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Naomi Alderman’s The Future is a thought-provoking novel that explores the concept of survival of the fittest. It presents a compelling narrative that challenges readers to consider the implications of this idea in our society.


This is the main issue. We are able to envision the future. And once we have envisioned it, we cannot halt.” These words are featured near the conclusion of Naomi Alderman’s sixth book, The Future, transcribed to a survivalist website from a renowned sermon by a leader of a doomsday cult who went by the name Enoch. The followers of Enoch met a tragic end collectively several years prior to the events of the novel, but Enoch’s beliefs about the future of human civilization continue to exist in corners of the internet, and have a strong impact throughout the book as a parable and commentary on humanity’s enthusiastic rush towards its own demise.

Alderman is a highly innovative author from Britain who expertly blends literary and historical knowledge with her experience in creating video games. Like her mentor Margaret Atwood, she seamlessly weaves between different timelines – the past, present, and future – in her novels. However, it was her 2016 work, The Power, that brought her mainstream success. It comes as no surprise that her latest book, The Future, follows a similar style. This thought-provoking novel cleverly combines satire, dystopia, and technology to explore complex ideas about the future. While its premise may not be as focused as The Power’s exploration of a world where men fear women’s violence, it still delves into the same overarching question: what happens when a select few hold all the power, including the power to survive the end of the world? As humans, it is our nature to imagine the future, but can we envision a better one? And if so, what sacrifices are we willing to make for it?

The joke in the text is that The Future is actually set in our present time, but with more advanced technology. In this near-future world, displacement and environmental issues are common, and global communication and commerce are controlled by three major companies: Anvil, Medlar, and Fantail. These companies are thinly veiled versions of Amazon, Apple, and Facebook/Twitter, and they are led by their respective CEOs: Zimri Nommik, Ellen Bywater, and Lenk Sketlish. Despite being competitors, these three individuals are also allies due to their immense wealth. The story begins with each of them receiving a notification from an exclusive app warning them of the impending collapse of society and instructing them to seek refuge in their bunkers.

The apocalyptic catastrophe is not revealed until later in the novel, as it switches between past and present, different locations and characters, and real world events and philosophical discussions on the Name the Day forum. The storytelling style has a strong resemblance to television, with short scenes, a large and diverse cast, witty dialogue, and occasional exaggerated violence. Initially, this can feel disjointed, but as the reader pieces together the plot and uncovers the author’s tricks, they also begin to grasp the deeper themes of the novel – exploring the nature of civilization, the risks and rewards of trust, and what lessons we can learn from history and mythology.

The book features a recurring theme of the biblical tale of Lot, who managed to escape the destruction of Sodom. This particular theme is heavily focused on by Martha Einkorn, a key member of Fantail and the daughter of Enoch. Martha and her on-again-off-again partner, Lai Zhen, a former refugee turned influencer in survival technology, are the most well-developed characters in the story. However, the billionaires in the novel are portrayed as caricatures of their real-life counterparts and do not undergo much growth. This is a common flaw in satirical works that attempt to parody the lifestyle of tech-bros. Other examples include Dave Eggers’s 2013 novel The Circle and the film Glass Onion, as the reality of this lifestyle is already so exaggerated that the satire falls short.

However, The Future goes beyond being just satire. Alderman effortlessly shifts between using irony and humor and making thoughtful observations. Her writing is filled with empathy and insight. Beyond the exciting action scenes and futuristic technology, she presents a different future that recognizes both our flaws and our ability to persevere, one in which “the journey is the destination”.

  • The Future by Naomi Alderman is published by Fourth Estate (£20). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

Source: theguardian.com