I knew there would be reading time on a recent trip to France and Italy for my mother’s birthday, so I stopped at the bookstore on my way out of SEATAC. I decided to be a reader rather than an author, to grab fiction for entertainment instead of some new way to do research for my Backing into Eden series of blog posts. I failed, on accident. Â I picked up Barbara Kingsolverâ€™s Flight Behavior.Â If you have been following me awhile, youâ€™ll know I love her books.Â I am convinced this is her best work yet. Â And it directly relates to my current concern about the environment and our ecosystems.
Flight Behavior is both a work of Â science fiction and a fabulous, award-winning literary novel. Â My dad and I had a related conversation during the trip about one of our shared favorite works, On the Beach, by Nevil Shute.Â I stated thatÂ On the Beach is one of the best post-apocalyptic SF novels ever written.Â My dad countered that it wasnâ€™t science fiction at all because â€œall of the science was known.â€Â In case any of you missed On the Beach, itâ€™s a tale about the end of the world by the hand of man, via nuclear war.
Flight Behavior is about the end of the world by the hand of man, via climate change.Â Unlike On the Beach, Flight Behavior doesnâ€™t go all the way to the last death, or even really near that. Â Perhaps instead of being post-apocalyptic, it could be considered inter-apocalyptic, or whatever word Â would describe a book written about the middle of the slow death of world, a moment just before the tipping point where no change is enough to restore what lived before the change.
Both books are told through the eyes of fairly normal protagonists and deal with day-to-day images of despair and bravery and reflection and beauty.Â This makes them far more powerful than the fire and brimstone images that appear in common post-apocalyptic novels and movies.
Back the conversation with my dad.Â On the Beach is so good, it makes me cry every time I read it. It was written post-Hiroshima, and is relevant today, if slightly dated.Â Both On the Beach, and Flight Behavior are based on science, but in neither case is the science all â€œknown.â€Â One of the beauties of science is that what we know changes and grows.Â But both works rely on real work done by real scientists on truly dreadful topics. Â Both are set in the near future (from date of writing) and both are excellent examples of literary fiction and science fiction.
Flight Behavior is so multi-layered I want to re-read it again right now.Â And of course, since itâ€™s a Kingsolver, itâ€™s also a book full of poetic line by line writing.Â Iâ€™m tagging it to show up in the Backing into Eden page because itâ€™s very relevant to the work Iâ€™m doing with that blog series.