Radio 2 Book Club: America City

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America City by Chris Beckett will feature on the Radio 2 Book Club on Monday 27 November.

We have the chance for you to win 10 copies of this fascinating novel for your reading group! Please enter by Friday 1 December.

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We also have an exclusive extract available for you to read.

America City

America, one century on: a warmer climate is causing vast movements of people. Droughts, floods and hurricanes force entire populations to simply abandon their homes. Tensions are mounting between north and south, and some northern states are threatening to close their borders against homeless fellow-Americans from the south.

Against this backdrop, an ambitious young British-born publicist, Holly Peacock, meets a new client, the charismatic Senator Slaymaker, a politician whose sole mission is to keep America together, reconfiguring the entire country in order to meet the challenge of the new climate realities as a single, united nation. When he runs for President, Holly becomes his right hand woman, doing battle on the whisperstream, where stories are everything and truth counts for little.

But can they bring America together – or have they set the country on a new, but equally devastating, path?

Selection panel review

The book was selected with the help of a panel of library staff from across the UK.

The readers loved America City – here are some of their comments:

“This was an extremely clever and well-written book. Whilst it is set some time in the future, the country, the characters and the problems they are dealing with are still very identifiable. It may be classed as ‘science fiction’ but the devastating effects of extreme weather (caused by climate change) on accessible, productive land and the subsequent fight by different groups of people for what is left makes it a very believable scenario. The main thread of the story is told through the central characters of Holly and Richard (a comfortably well off, educated, liberal couple) whose ideals and political views are increasingly questioned after Holly agrees to work for a wealthy outsider in his campaign to become president. But the story is interspersed with a range of accounts from disparate characters giving justification for their own views and actions. A book which explores the manipulation of technology and social media to change public opinion and create ‘fake’ news, the identification of different groups of people as deserving or not, and the premise that not doing enough to reverse climate change will have a dramatic impact in the future felt less like science fiction and more like an urgent warning. It might not provide the answers but it definitely makes you think – compelling!”

“The book is set in an undetermined year in the future but you can work out by various references that is roughly 150 years ahead. The US is in the grips of extreme weather as climate change has really taken hold. What is scary is that it all seems plausible. If the powers that be continue to ignore the threat of climate change then this could be an all too real scenario. The technology described is both futuristic and familiar so you could really believe the manipulation by politicians could happen. This book is billed as sci-fi but it is in the style of Black Mirror so works even if you’re not a sci-fi fan. Read this as a warning on a future to avoid! There are four stories here really, on one level Holly and her relationships, which does she sacrifice, work or friends, as they are incompatible? The climate change warning and the consequences if we ignore that. A political commentary, how much can we trust politicians to do the right thing? How much is power the ultimate motivator for them? How far are we manipulated without realising? Finally refugees. When the refuges are within your own country is it easier or harder to accept them?”

About the author

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Chris Beckett is a former university lecturer and social worker living in Cambridge. He is the winner of the Edge Hill Short Fiction Award 2009 for The Turing Test, the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2013 for Dark Eden, and was shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Association Novel of the Year Award for Mother of Eden in 2015 and for Daughter of Eden in 2016.

A word from Chris

“When I was a child, visits to Summertown Library in Oxford were a monthly treat. I remember the soft voices, the papery smell, the particular way in which librarians handle books, the card index with the little pockets for library cards – this was the 1960s – the soft satisfying clopping sound that library books make, with their special hardwearing covers, as they are stacked up in a pile. It certainly made me into a reader, and if I wasn’t a reader I would never have become a writer. I really love the thought that sometimes these days my own books are piled up with the same quiet clopping sound, and am absolutely delighted that my new book, America City, has been recommended by librarians to The Reading Agency and Radio 2 Book Club. Thanks very much!”

Get involved

Tune in to Simon Mayo’s Drivetime show on Monday 27 November to hear a live interview with Chris.

Have you read America City? You can share your thoughts with us on Twitter and follow author Chris Beckett.

“You can also see what other readers thought or add the book to your group’s reading list”: http://readinggroups.org/books/16856899.

Want to find out more? Take a look at the Radio 2 Book Club Twitter feed or find out more on the Radio 2 Book Club website.

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