I returned home from a short summer break (of which later) to a fabulous, poignant and insightful review of The End of the Road, by my fellow speculative fiction writer, Michelle Cook. Michelle poised a question in her review that I find very pertinent as it was one of the questions I asked myself when writing the book:
One of the characters, a white westerner, watches a community of indigenous people preparing to escape disaster and thinks ‘In what way are they better than us? Why do they deserve to live more than we do?’.
Throughout the ongoing refugee crises sweeping not only through Europe but also to a lesser degree through North America, I have been thinking about how we perceive refugees. One concept kept coming back to mind: we see them as “the others”.
When writing the book, I considered the possibility of the reversal of fortunes: the Westerners are stranded in other people’s world and beg for help. A European, I was brought up in a Euro-centric culture where the rest of the world is seen as “the third party”, rather alien, a bit exotic, and not very relevant. But then I moved continents, twice. And twice I discovered worlds where I and “my kind” weren’t the centre of the world, where my values were irrelevant and definitely not better than the values of the people whose world I found myself living in. I think I have learned something interesting. Those new worlds weren’t new at all. They’d existed and functioned perfectly well long before Europeans arrived there. They had their own beliefs and rules of conduct based on their own, valid to them and to their way of life, morality. As long as I inhabited their worlds, those people and their ways were supreme to me and my values. As a European, I learned humility. As a human being, I learned that our world is a very small place which we have to share without rivalry, and when it comes to an end, we will all be in it together.
Michelle Cook’s full review:
There’s a line in this book towards the end. One of the characters, a white westerner, watches a community of indigenous people preparing to escape disaster and thinks ‘In what way are they better than us? Why do they deserve to live more than we do?’.
I can’t get the line out of my head. I don’t know if the writer intended this, but it makes me think about how much value we put on lives according to where they are lived. How we are more accustomed, desensitised, to seeing people who don’t look like us die. How it seems so much more tragic when it’s people like us.
This isn’t necessarily the focus of The End of the Road. Throughout the book, we follow six people from across a world gone to hell. I mean, these people face war, poisoning, floods, fire and famine. Everything on Earth and beyond is thrown at them. I’m not gonna lie, there’s some grim reading in there. But it’s gripping. And moving. Within the epic frame, there are many small moments of real humanity: weakness, strength, sacrifice and betrayal.
And when the stories finally converge we’re left with hope among the devastation.
A vivid, awe-inspiring and affecting read.
Click on the image for a link to The End of the Road