Robert Harris’s ‘The Second Sleep’ takes a shocking post-apocalyptic flip

The Second Sleep

Creator: Robert Harris

Writer: Hutchinson, thriller

Robert Harris is unlikely to wish a lot introduction should you learn thrillers. With a again catalogue together with Fatherland, Enigma and An Officer And A Spy, Harris has lengthy bridged the, at instances, gaping void between well-liked and literary fiction with elegant, taut fiction that’s just about assured to maintain a reader on the sting of his/her seat.

His newest work, The Second Sleep, isn’t prone to disappoint his already vital following. What might come as extra of a shock is the blending of genres. Historic fiction or science fiction? An unlikely confusion? Properly, usually, sure – however in The Second Sleep that’s precisely what Harris achieves. Let me clarify.

It’s 1468 and a priest, Christopher Fairfax, is travelling by horse to the village of Addicott St George within the south-west of England. He travels by means of a medieval panorama acquainted to us: tough locals mock his accent, the our bodies of executed criminals dangle from gibbets and the roads are harmful locations on the mercy of footpads. Night time is falling and Fairfax loses his approach. We concern for his security.

Fairfax has been despatched to this distant village by the bishop of Exeter, Bishop Pole. His process is to preside over the funeral of Addicott’s lately deceased priest, Father Thomas Lacy. Arriving, lastly, on the vicarage, Fairfax meets an odd reception. The physique of Father Lacy stays in his bed room and Fairfax should sleep as finest he can. As he explores the home, he and the reader make shocking discoveries.

Lest it’s thought I’m about to present an excessive amount of away I ought to say that what follows happens early within the e-book. However by all means skip the subsequent few paragraphs should you suppose somewhat foreknowledge will spoil your enjoyment!

Amongst Lacy’s antiquarian treasures is “one of many units utilized by the ancients to speak”. The system is marked with the image of an apple with a chunk taken out of it.

Clearly then, we aren’t, regardless of all of the early indicators, in medieval England. We’re not in something that we’d recognise as 1468. In actual fact, we’re far into the longer term when our present civilisation is gone, destroyed by we all know not what. Our up to date world has grow to be the forbidden topic of research of a society through which all earlier technical and scientific data has been misplaced.

This can be a put up apocalyptic world through which the ultimate e-book of the Bible has been fulfilled. The earth has been purged. Those that have survived stay underneath the rule of the Church which has declared heretical any makes an attempt to unearth details about, or acquire artefacts from, the previous. And the punishments for heresy are extreme.

British author Robert Harris. Photo: KT Bruce Photography/penguin, com.auBritish creator Robert Harris. Photograph: KT Bruce Pictures/penguin, com.auFor Christopher Fairfax, this can be a devastating discovery. He has been dispatched on this mission to be out and in of Addicott in an evening and day. However he has found a nest of heresy, full with artefacts and banned books. Father Lacy was clearly a seeker of forbidden data. Fairfax, by turns horrified and fascinated, is about to undertake a journey of discovery that he had not bargained for and for which he’s ill-equipped.

There may be one other well-established style in well-liked fiction: the journey story, or, because it has been gently however affectionately mocked, the ripping yarn. And there’s undoubtedly one thing of the ripping yarn about The Second Sleep. For out of this historic fiction starting and its sci-fi premise, Harris spins a story of affection, lust, energy, duplicity, secrecy, coercion and lies. The Second Sleep evolves into an exciting journey story performed out in opposition to a hostile panorama of deluging rains and the ruthless train of energy.

Does all of it work? Properly, in lesser fingers it’d effectively not. However Harris is an skilled and expert craftsman. First he teases us gently along with his intentionally complicated setting after which he intrigues us along with his premise. After that he lets good old school character and plot take over. And, my goodness, he’s good at that. It’s a while since I’ve learn a novel the place even the minor characters are memorable. So usually they disappear murkily into the background. Not right here.

However it all hangs, as all the time, on the protagonists. And Christopher Fairfax’s journey, on which all his beliefs are challenged and his allegiances pulled aside, holds our consideration to the tip.

I can’t declare that The Second Sleep is Harris’s most interesting work. However regardless of its journey story cloak it does ask deeper questions concerning the nature of society and the way it’s ruled. And it’s a compelling, page-turning learn of a e-book.

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