I am quickly learning that when it comes to the author, Lauren James, you should always expect the unexpected!
After reading The Loneliest Girl in the Universe a couple of months ago and being thoroughly impressed with it, even considering I’m not a big science fiction reader, I was extremely excited to pick up James’s newest offering, The Quiet at the End of the World.
Lauren’s new book was certainly a rollercoaster, and I haven’t read a novel that has kept me guessing this much in a VERY LONG TIME.
Thank you to Walker Books for providing me with an advanced reader copy at their book blogger event! This did not in any way impact the thoughts in my review.
How far would you go to save those you love?
Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mudlarking for artefacts from history and looking for treasure in their once-opulent mansion.
Their idyllic life is torn apart when a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence. Lowrie and Shen face an impossible choice: in the quiet at the end of the world, they must decide who to save and who to sacrifice . . .
Okay, so I just want to preface this review by saying that The Quiet at the End of the World is a VERY difficult book to review without dipping into spoilers. A lot of the best things about it must remain a secret if you’re planning to pick it up, so please keep this in mind throughout the review!
Lowrie and Shen are the last teenagers on Earth living in the year 2109 after a virus starting with a mysterious nosebleed spread worldwide causing global infertility on Earth. Is it natural selection? Evolution? Some kind of punishment? No one knows. Shen and Lowrie are humanities last hope. As the last two delayed IVF eggs to be born, they will define an entire generation. What will they leave behind for a new species of aliens or superhumans that may follow after them? What can they do to ensure they are not forgotten? But humans do not give up so easily, and the adults remaining who are all 80+ have congregated in a crumbling London desperate to find a solution, all the while taking turns to provide Lowrie and Shen with practical and survivalist classes to prepare them for a life alone. But when a mysterious illness hits and those in their community start having fits, Lowrie and Shen may have to face a lonely future much earlier than they thought.
So I have to start this off by praising Lauren James’s writing style. The tone of her novels feel like a contemporary book, all the while weaving in interesting science terminology and theories in a completely accessible way, and this is definitely why I get on with her books so well! In Quiet, she looks at the theories of biology, Darwinism, artificial intelligence, and what it means to be human which was SO interesting. I also love that Lauren uses a mix of media formats in her works. For instance, each chapter starts with an excerpt from Lowrie’s mudlarking diary where she notes mysterious objects she has found on her adventures, from old phones to historically significant objects dating back to WW2. In addition, much of the book is made up of old social media posts and comments from chat rooms that Lowrie uses to uncover the past.
I’ll admit that Quiet got off to a bit of a slow start for me. Initially, I wasn’t quite sure where it was going, and while James was describing Lowrie and Shen’s daily activities, I was really keen to understand more about the mysteries of this futuristic world. But about 200 pages in things really kick off, and like a rock rolling down a hill the plot picks up speed and has so many exciting twists and turns you’ll find it difficult to put down!
This book can really be split into two aspects. The first is the present, where Lowrie and Shen go on archeological adventures and then desperately try and find a way to save their community from a mysterious illness. All the while, you get the feeling that they’re missing key pieces of the puzzle that are just out of reach.
The second aspect is Lowrie’s research into the past. One of her mudlarking trips leads her to look into Maya, a girl who experienced the infertility virus firsthand. From these excerpts, we get to unearth some of the mysteries and mass panic that occurred – people’s denial, the government’s reaction, the desperation that caused people to start stealing children, and the way that humans looked for alternative surrogates to fill the baby void (think lifelike tamagotchis!).
Lowrie and Shen are incredibly likable and interesting protagonists. Shen is Chinese and deaf in one ear. He’s kind and conscientious and loves learning in the classroom, especially when it comes to computers. Lowrie loves science, archeology and tinkering with all her favourite tools, and prefers practical clothing to dresses. She’s also bisexual, which I thought was explored in a really interesting way considering there’s only one male her age on the planet. I also loved how Lowrie and Shen’s friendship was explored because their fates are inexplicably tied, whether they want it or not. They also face so much pressure and responsibility to keep human traditions and values alive.
I also felt very emotionally connected with Maya and Rizz who we learn about purely through their social media posts as they react to the crisis around them. Plus, their messages to each other were just the cutest!
In comparison, I didn’t get that emotionally connected to the side characters in Quiet, but I did absolutely love Mitch, who becomes Lowrie and Shen’s robot sidekick who communicates in a series of beeps and flashes, and loyally protects his comrades from harm. He’s also incredibly smart, to the point where you start to wonder if he has human emotions!
Overall, I enjoyed The Quiet at the End of the World immensely. The plot is SUPER TWISTY and kept me guessing the entire way through, the worldbuilding was a breath of fresh air and made me think about big topics, and the characters were extremely likable and diverse (YAY!).
Ultimately, a big thumbs up from me, so make sure to grab your copy when the book releases on the 7th March! 😀
Overall Impression: 4/5
Writing Style 4/5
Character Development 4/5
Would I recommend this book? Definitely!