Clade by James Bradley review – the apocalypse is happening

A convincing family drama merges with our heedless despoiling of the planet in this futuristic novel of climate breakdown

Reading Australian James Bradley’s “cli-fi” novel as large areas of Asia and Texas are flooded ramps up the disturbing effect of its incrementally apocalyptic scenarios. Bird die-offs, mass fish deaths, wildfires and storms are just the beginning as Bradley zooms into the future via a sequence of linked narratives. The “clade” of the title is the set of all the descendants of Adam Leith, a climatologist; each chapter focuses on the next generation of Adam’s family (and naturally his name has symbolic resonance), enabling Bradley’s predictions for Earth to fast-forward at Koyaanisqatsi-like speed while the human actors replay their inherited traits of awkwardness, poor communication skills and attachment issues. The structure, at once intimate and epic, works well as a means of delivering human-scale stories against the backdrop of the most human story of all: our heedless despoiling of the home planet. Almost inevitably, there is something of the blockbuster movie about this: the beleaguered family battling to stay together as the world ends. But Bradley’s deft merging of near-future predictions and cutting-edge science into a convincing setting for his family drama enables us to focus on the interactions between the characters. The apocalypse is happening, even as our messed-up lives distract us.

Clade is published by Titan. To order a copy for £6.79 (RRP £7.99) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.

Contributor

Jane Housham

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
America City by Chris Beckett review – dark vision of our future
The Arthur C Clarke winner’s dystopia is set in a future US ravaged by climate change and war

Liz Jensen

09, Nov, 2017 @12:00 PM

Article image
The High House by Jessie Greengrass review – apocalypse and family love
The joy of raising a child, even on the other side of disaster, is intercut with our current slide towards climate chaos

Melissa Harrison

09, Apr, 2021 @6:30 AM

Article image
No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference review – Greta Thunberg’s vision
The speeches of a young climate crisis activist who inspired global school strikes are sobering but tentatively hopeful

Rachel Hewitt

29, May, 2019 @11:00 AM

Article image
How Women Can Save the Planet by Anne Karpf review – clear and invigorating
From water pilgrims to climate refugees, those who are suffering most from the climate crisis have done the least to cause it, argues this clear and inspiring analysis

Rebecca Liu

16, Jun, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer review – after the biotech apocalypse
Flying bears and diagnostic beetles: a thrilling vision of life in its most radical forms explores the question of non-human sentience

Neel Mukherjee

15, Jun, 2017 @6:30 AM

Article image
Our House Is on Fire by Greta Thunberg et al review – a family and planet in crisis
A courageous family account of Greta Thunberg’s Asperger’s diagnosis becomes a must-read ecological message of hope

David Mitchell

04, Mar, 2020 @7:30 AM

Article image
The Great Flood by Edward Platt review – a wade through waterlogged Britain
From sunken cities to coastal catastrophe … the everyday misery of the climate crisis

Karl Whitney

01, Nov, 2019 @9:00 AM

Article image
Something New Under the Sun by Alexandra Kleeman review – Hollywood apocalypse
This sharply observed tale of planetary emergency digresses into unseen worlds, exploring human self-obsession and climate grief

Daisy Hildyard

11, Aug, 2021 @6:30 AM

Article image
The Case for the Green New Deal by Ann Pettifor; On Fire by Naomi Klein – review
Two excellent, inspiring calls for a new politics as the only solution to our climate catastrophe

Zoe Williams

19, Dec, 2019 @7:30 AM

Article image
Rain by Mary and Bryan Talbot review – climate-crisis graphic novel
Passionately political, this tale of a budding relationship between two women set against the 2015 floods in the north of England is an inspiring cry of protest

James Smart

19, Oct, 2019 @6:30 AM