Civilisation Is Gone. Where Does Humanity Go From Here…?

“The world lies devastated after the massive oil crisis that was described in “Last Light”. Human society has more or less entirely broken down and millions lie dead of starvation or disease. There are only one or two beacon communities that have managed to fashion a new way of living.

Jenny Sutherland runs one of these groups. Based on a series of decaying offshore oil rigs – for safety – a few hundred people have rebuilt a semblance of normality in this otherwise dead world.

But as Jenny and her people explore their surroundings once again, they start to realise not every survivor has the same vision of a better future than their catastrophic past. There are people out there who would take everything they have. War is coming, and the stakes are truly massive…”

01I have spent the past few days immersed in “Afterlight”, a novel published in 2010, written by Norwich-based author Alex Scarrow (brother of fellow author Simon Scarrow) as a follow up to his 2007 novel “Last Light”.

Alex Scarrow
Alex Scarrow

In the first book, Scarrow expertly described the few days following bombings at key oil refineries around the globe at a time of negligible oil reserves. This, combined with the U.K.’s lack of home-grown foods and lack of long-term storage for food, combined with the sudden global unavailability of oil for the transport for goods etc. meant that the country very quickly saw a complete breakdown of society as a result. The scenario presented was all too credible, and made for a sobering read.

Now, set predominantly ten years later, “Afterlight” follows the Sutherland family that featured heavily in “Last Light”, who have managed to build a fledgling community on an abandoned oil rig in the North Sea, having left the mainland to escape the gangs that roamed throughout the country following the oil crash and breakdown of civilisation. However, when the head of the one remaining “safe zones” in London, whose own supplies are gradually running out despite careful rationing, he sees an opportunity.

I felt that the characters portrayed here are all very believable, whether they be intrinsically good or bad or caught somewhere in between. This applies also to the various scenarios that play out with themes including greed, power, politics, the unifying and divisive potential of religion, a yearning for what used to be and the struggle to survive when life as we know it has essentially fallen apart.

alexscarrow-lightPerhaps the underlying scenario here means that this won’t be a book for everyone – some will inevitably scoff that it’s too far-fetched. Personally, I felt that the contents of these two books – perhaps this one even more than the first – are much more believable than I would like to think, and again give me pause to consider the disposable consumer society in which we live in this day and age and just how unprepared we would be should some global catastrophe occur…


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