Rise & Shine by Patrick Allington
Patrick Allington’s second novel is a quick-moving and lively tale set some thirty years after an ecological collapse has rendered the earth almost uninhabitable. Those who remain of the human race live in either Rise or Shine, two city–states that are locked in an almost constant war with each other. While all food and water has become either incredibly scarce or poisonous, citizens of these nations literally feed themselves by watching videos of the war – either on the everpresent screens all over their cities or on their own personal devices, which are never far from reach.
The book follows a host of different characters – a retired veteran, a self-exiled scientist, an illegal grower of plants – to fill out the world, though for the most part we follow Walker, the military leader of Rise who, along with his counterpart in Shine, Barton, orchestrated the war the populace relies on for sustenance. The only problem is that now people have started dying off from an unknown disease, with which Walker may be afflicted.
Rise & Shine is at its most successful when read as an allegory. The book itself is filled with odd bouts of calmness – in an interrogation a prisoner is called on, and grilled about, their lack of politeness, more than anything – and, for the most part, Rise & Shine concerns itself with its maze-like bureaucratic dialogue and the intricacies of the society’s structure. What does it mean if conflict is the only thing keeping us going? If war goes on forever, what fills the rest of our lives?
Ultimately you have a book that’s more George Saunders than Cormac McCarthy, a strange and somewhat uplifting portrait of the world as it stumbles towards the end.