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384 pages, Paperback
First published July 26, 2018
Have you ever read a book in one breath? Have you ever drawn a sharp intake of air in the opening pages and then held it right until the end, barely able to move or tear your eyes away from the devastation on the pages in front of you? This is what it felt like when I was reading Nicky Singer’s post-apocalyptic The Survival Game.
The Survival Game is one of those rare novels. Beautifully written, it is a book that will drag you along through every emotion possible as you try to fathom how devastatingly plausible the entire story is.
Our protagonist is 14-year-old Mhairi, a girl who has travelled alone from the Sudan and is making her way across Britain to her home in Scotland. Except that it might not be her home anymore; the world as we know it consists of closed borders and checkpoints, each country cutting itself off in the face of catastrophic environmental devastation and global human migration. This is our world a mere 30 years in the future and it is not pretty.
Mhairi owns nothing except the clothes on her back, a gun with no bullets and her papers that prove her right to be in Scotland. All she needs to do is to keep heading north and she will eventually get there, to her home.
“Today I wonder if this is what home is: walking somewhere where you don’t need a map. Where the landscape is laid in your heart”
Her position is precarious for this is a world in which crimes or misdemeanours result in years deducted from your predetermined time on this earth and the very last thing anyone should be doing is picking up an illegal ‘alien’ on their travels. Except that this is exactly what Mhairi does when she meets a mute child and puts her entire journey in jeopardy.
What follows is a battle between the will for survival and the basic human qualities of love and morality because what is the point of survival if we don’t live our lives right?
The Survival Game is an astonishing story of survival, meaningfulness and morality in a world pushed to the brink by global shortages. It is also a book about layers and details, so meticulously researched that you will find yourself appreciating every bite of food you take and every, single drop of water.