The New Wilderness
‘THE ENVIRONMENTAL NOVEL OF OUR TIMES.’ Lemn Sissay, Booker Prize judge
From an acclaimed Guardian First Book Award finalist comes a debut novel ‘brutal and beautiful in equal measure’ (Emily St. John Mandel)
Longlisted for the DUBLIN Literary Award 2022
A Guardian Best Science Fiction Book of the Year
A ‘Best Book of the Year 2020’ according to BBC Culture * An Irish Times Best Debut Fiction of 2020
Bea’s daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away, her lungs ravaged by the smog and pollution of the overpopulated metropolis they call home.
The only alternative is to build a life in the vast expanse of untamed land known as The Wilderness State. No one has been allowed to venture here before. That is all about to change. But as Bea soon discovers, saving her daughter’s life might mean losing her in ways she hadn’t foreseen.
Passionate and exhilarating, The New Wilderness is the story of a mother’s fight to save her daughter in a world she can no longer call her own.
'The New Wilderness is a many-layered dystopian fiction set in the not too distant future. It's the environmental novel of our times. We were impressed by the novel taking on the greatest story of our times - climate change - and yet it's a novel that focuses through relationships.' -- Lemn Sissay, Booker Prize judge 'The New Wilderness is a virtuosic debut, brutal and beautiful in equal measure.' * Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel * 'Cook's propulsive tale is moved along as much by the engrossingly complex mother-daughter relationship that develops as by the Community's grim attempts to survive... The New Wilderness is a well-formed and powerful piece of writing.' -- The Times, Siobhan Murphy 'Soulful, urgent... Cook is adept at matter-of-factly deploying unadorned detail to deadpanning, gut-plummeting effect... Supremely well-crafted... So much else is broached in these vivid, timely pages: tribalism, courage, consumption, storytelling itself - an art that Cook spirits back to its spark-enlivened, campfire origins. What lingers, though, beyond the awesome power of Bea and Agnes as heroines, is pure wonderment at all in this world of ours that is not human.' * Observer * 'Wonderfully imagined and written, this is a tense future-shock novel that's also a tender exploration of a mother-daughter relationship under extreme pressure... An urgent novel reflective of what is happening in society right now.' * Booker Prize judges * 'The New Wilderness is Diane Cook's debut novel that brings to life a wildly imaginative and terrifying dystopian story of a mother's battle to save her daughter from a world ravaged by climate change. Touching on humanity and our contempt for nature, this is a timely and compelling novel.' * Independent * 'This Booker-longlisted novel's driving questions - who will live and who will die? And which kind of leadership will triumph along the way? - remind us, in a compelling fashion, why we read at all: to learn how better to survive.' * New Statesman * 'The unease between mother and daughter as they navigate disparate understandings of self, belonging, society and each other is the beating heart of the novel... Cook takes command of a fast-paced, thrilling story to ask stomach-turning questions in a moment when it would benefit every soul to have their stomach turned by the prospect of the future she envisions.' * Tea Obreht, Observer * 'A visceral, elemental performance... Dense with believable detail.' * The Sunday Times * 'Riveting... Bleakly compelling, and leavened by wry, sparkling humour that Cook combines seamlessly with existential dread.' * Daily Telegraph * 'This gut-wrenching story of survival, danger, power, control and, most importantly, love is one you won't want to put down.' * CNN * 'This Booker-longlisted novel's driving questions - who will live and who will die? And which kinds of leadership will triumph along the way? - remind us, in a compelling fashion, why we read at all: to learn how better to survive.' -- New Statesman 'It is the anthropological acuity in Cook's writing that makes it so persuasive... The chief power of The New Wilderness, and what distinguishes it from less successful environmental dystopian fiction, is Cook's talent for world-building.' -- Lamorna Ash * TLS * 'In her gripping and provoking debut novel, Cook extends the shrewd and implacable dramatization of our catastrophic assault on the biosphere that she so boldly launched in her short story collection, Man V. Nature (2014)... Violence, death, tribalism, lust, love, betrayals, wonder, genius and courage - all are enacted in this stunningly incisive and complexly suspenseful tale akin to dystopian novels by Margaret Atwood and Claire Vaye Watkins.' * Booklist (starred review) * 'This Booker-longlisted novel also paints a deft portrait of human nature.' * Mail on Sunday * 'Cook leavens her satire with sly wit and real wisdom, expertly deconstructing the borderline separating human beings and other animals.' -- Guardian, Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books 2020 'A wry, speculative debut novel... Cook's unsettling, darkly humorous tale explores maternal love and man's disdain for nature with impressive results.' * Publishers Weekly (starred review) * 'The New Wilderness left me as stunned as a deer in headlights. Gut-wrenching and heart-wrecking, this is a book that demands to be read, and urgently. With beauty and compassion, Diane Cook writes about the precariousness of life on this planet, about the things that make us human - foremost the love between mothers and daughters, at once complex and elemental. Cook observes humanity as a zoologist might - seeing us exactly as the strange animals we really are.' * Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye, Vitamin * 'An absolutely riveting and propulsive novel. Terrifying, and as real as can be. Epic in scale and story; granular and recognisable in people and place. The New Wilderness is surely an instant classic in our stories of survival, sovereignty and adaptation. Cook's writing is so sure-footed, prescient and trustworthy, it's all the reader can do to follow her. For fans of Ling Ma's Severance and Hernan Diaz's In the Distance, and many, many readers in between.' * Caoilinn Hughes, author of The Wild Laughter * 'Cook's is a fresh and vivid voice; it's unsurprising the likes of Miranda July and Roxane Gay are fans.' * Observer * 'Cook has a keen eye for the relentless weigh-ups of parenthood... The tale of a hazardously self-denying lifestyle pursued on health grounds, it has uncanny resonance.' -- Metro 'Urgent and inventive... This quietly raging novel deserves its place on the Booker longlist. People who switch off when they hear the phrase "climate change" should read it. And so should everyone else.' -- Irish Times 'Unsettling but riveting debut novel... Halfway through, the story changes to the daughter's perspective - a clever ploy by Cook... It's this meditation on mother-daughter relationships (and by extension, humanity's relationship with Mother Nature) that provides the emotional heft in this thrilling, allegorical tale, a cross between a nature documentary, ecological nightmare and a Bear Grylls reality survival show... The New Wilderness is bleakly compelling, and leavened by wry, sparkling humour that Cook combines seamlessly with existential dread.' * Irish Independent * 'Diane Cook upends old tropes of autonomy, survival, and civilization to reveal startling new life teeming beneath, giving a glimpse into the ways the world we think we know could come unstuck and come to life in the care of the women and girls of the future. This is not just a thrilling, curious, vibrant book - but an essential one, a compass to guide us into the future.' * Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine * 'The emotional core of the story is the relationship between Bea and Agnes, whose perspectives drive the narrative. It's a damning piece of horror cli-fi, but it's also a gripping and profound examination of love and sacrifice.' * BuzzFeed * 'The New Wilderness strips us of our veneer of civilisation and exposes us for what we are: driven to survive, capable of shocking cruelty and profound, fierce love. This story of what a mother does to save her daughter is unflinching, horrifying, forgiving, deeply moving, and filled with truth that stayed with this mother long after the final page.' * Helen Sedgwick, author of The Comet Seekers * 'The push-pull of ambivalent but powerful love between mother and daughter centers the novel... Cook also raises uncomfortable questions: How far will a person go to survive, and what sacrifices will she or won't she make for those she loves? This ecological horror story (particularly horrifying now) explores painful regions of the human heart.' * Kirkus (starred review) * 'The novel tackles the deepest of human emotions-as well as big ideas about the planet-in satisfying ways. Also, it's a page-turner!' * LitHub * 'As close to experiencing a Picasso as literature can get.' * Tea Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife (on Man V. Nature) * 'An imaginative, dystopian look at what our world could become... I was gripped by how vivid the story was, how expertly Diane Cook got into the dynamics of a group of strangers surviving in the wild, and their relationship with those in power.' * Hey Alma - Favourite Books for Summer * 'Precise, beautiful and matter-of-fact... Cook's rendering of the numberless threats her characters face - both from too much nature and too little - makes The New Wilderness a tense and absorbing read, while her attention to the complicated intensity of human relationships gives the work its power.' -- Literary Review 'A big book full of characters and rich in imagination... The only debut novel on the shortlist that never feels like one.' -- Irish Times 'Dazzling' -- Psychologies 'It's entirely understandable that in trying times you might want to avoid reading stories about people trying to survive dystopia, but Diane Cook's The New Wilderness is my best argument for giving it a shot. In this beautiful novel, the United States has become largely unliveable and so Bea takes her ailing daughter Agnes to live in one of the last patches of wilderness... In that possibility Cook finds humor, incredible heart and something like hope.' -- NPR, Best Books of the Year 'I absolutely fell in love with The New Wilderness by Diane Cook, as it so deftly weaves environmental concern with familial bonds, and looks to answer the question of how far we would go for our children... Beautiful, and also a stark reminder to reconsider what we value in our short times on this earth, and to be conscious of what we leave behind.' -- NB magazine, Best Books of 2020 'This debut novel erupts with a ferocity that barely falters.' -- SA Weekend 'Diana Cook's The New Wilderness, shortlisted for the 2020 Booker prize, another powerful climate change novel... The project, seen through Bea and Agnes's turbulent relationship over the years, fractures due to tribal individualism, the harsh natural environment and the surveillance of the hostile Wilderness Rangers.' -- Canberra Times '5 of 5 stars. [A] gripping, fierce, terrifying examination of what people are capable of when they want to survive in both the best and worst ways. Loved this.' -- Roxane Gay
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