The Trespassers by Meg Mundell
The Trespassers shifts between the points of view of three migrants travelling from overcrowded, disease-ridden countries to a better future – Billie, a Scottish healthcare worker; Cleary, a young Irish boy who lost his hearing to a serious illness; and Tom, a British schoolteacher from a privileged background. Their destination is Australia, which remains untouched by the plagues and other crises sweeping through Europe.
Billie, Cleary, Tom and their fellow passengers have all been carefully selected for the journey to Australia by RedStar, the huge corporation shipping them over. They’ve been screened for disease and had their character, fitness and work histories relentlessly assessed. When a mysterious illness begins to afflict the migrants mid-journey, no-one can figure out its origin. The disease moves through their small, close-quartered population rapidly, and as the death toll rises the crew begin to suspect sabotage. Billie, Cleary and Tom all inch closer to the truth from their very different vantage points, and they find themselves embroiled in a deadly scramble to obscure this epidemic and its cause from the outside world.
This novel depicts a believable dystopia: one filled with doomsday cults, anti-migration terrorists, island-sized patches of plastic floating across the ocean, dubious corporations and unfeeling politicians. Meg Mundell also draws clear parallels to the arbitrary cruelty of Australia’s present-day migration detention policies. It is in this sense that The Trespassers is a dystopian novel that hits very close to home, and also has great potential to inspire empathy in its readers. This is literary speculative fiction at its absolute best. Mundell combines the best parts of multiple genres with well-honed prose, a plot that is taut and pacey, and a great deal of compassion. If you’re looking for a readable literary novel with impact, intrigue, pace, and mysteries as deep and dark as the ocean, look no further.