Appleseed, For Your Consideration

If your summer reading does not include some dystopian fiction and you want to consider adding some, for your consideration this review bhas a strong recommendation of the above book:

A Novel Charts Earth’s Path From Lush Eden to Barren Hellscape

Climate is everywhere in fiction these days. Omar El Akkad’s “American War,” Lydia Millet’s “A Children’s Bible,” N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, Carys Bray’s “When the Lights Go Out” and Selah Saterstrom’s “Slab” are just a few of the many recent novels to highlight global warming and related extreme weather.

For some years, Matt Bell (“Scrapper” and “Cataclysm Baby”) has had climate and apocalypse on his mind, and his excellent new novel continues and deepens his investment. Set in the past, the near future and a thousand years down the dangerous road human beings currently travel, “Appleseed” employs myth, magic and science to give a damning account of the narrative of American exceptionalism and the relentless post-conquest exploitation of this country’s vast natural resources.

What a world, in Bell’s depiction, it used to be. The as-yet unspoiled America navigated by the first of the novel’s three central characters, a tree-planting faun named Chapman, is exuberantly alive: “This overripe abundance all around, the forest gagging itself upon a bright profusion of right living: flowers blooming, chicks crying out, infant rabbits in the brambles.” Chapman, a marvelous reimagining of the historical John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed, roves this 18th-century Eden with his human brother, Nathaniel, planting apple orchards to attract westward settlers in search of fresh land whose native inhabitants they will push out and exploit.

That Nathaniel, whose scheme this is, is driven by the wildly improbable notion that these future settlers will pay the brothers royalties for the privilege of harvesting the apples they stumble upon makes for a trenchant commentary on the self-interest and delusion that underwrote the larger, profit-driven meta-scheme that was Manifest Destiny and that still informs so much individual and collective scheming today…

Read the whole review here.

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