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The New Wilderness

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  6,744 ratings  ·  987 reviews
A debut novel that explores a mother-daughter relationship in a world ravaged by climate change and overpopulation, a suspenseful second book from the author of the story collection, Man V. Nature.

Bea’s five-year-old daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away. The smog and pollution of the City—an over-populated, over-built metropolis where most of the population lives—is des
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published August 11th 2020 by Harper (first published July 30th 2020)
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Mahina Nightsage All of the above. Although there isn't a lot of discussion about climate change per se, it is mentioned and the general degradation of the environment…moreAll of the above. Although there isn't a lot of discussion about climate change per se, it is mentioned and the general degradation of the environment and death of species from human encroachment is the backdrop for why the characters are in the New Wilderness. I highly recommend reading it. Something about it is haunting. Maybe it is the planet haunting us and demanding we do better!(less)
Mahina Nightsage It is heavy in the way that a book about the destruction of our wild spaces and the need to protect this one last space is heavy. If you love the Eart…moreIt is heavy in the way that a book about the destruction of our wild spaces and the need to protect this one last space is heavy. If you love the Earth and feel acute pain over what we are losing, that is the subtext of this novel. I did not, however, find it too heavy to read. The story focuses on the people who are trying to make it in the New Wilderness and is very much driven by the stories and interactions of the people, particularly one mother and child. I encourage you to read it!(less)

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Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gripping, fierce, terrifying examination of what people are capable of when they want to survive in both the best and worst ways. Loved this.
Roman Clodia
Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020 (... somehow)

** Full of spoilers **

A cross between The Hunger Games and... I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!

Honestly, where to start with this book which is utterly perplexing? And I mean that at the plot level (more of which later) and at the fact that it's on the 2020 Booker long-list. It's like The Hunger Games without either the danger (people can leave The Wilderness anytime, 'When you know the time you want to go, we can call you a taxi,' says a
Nilufer Ozmekik
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is dark, wild, earth shattering, mind spinning, WTH I just read, I need a big break to gather my feelings kind of book! This is quiet dazzling, thought provoking, unique, depressing, apocalyptic, soul crushing dystopian read is not for everyone! I feel like my head can explode at any second after too much pressure, high tension, after reading dark portrait of future with painful mother-daughter’s survival story.

Impressive and emotional mother-daughter bounding and heart-wrenching journey th
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
Uneven and underwhelming, and I really like dystopian fiction as a genre.
Nothing in this novel hasn’t already been done better (and with humor) by Margaret Atwood in the MaddAddam trilogy

Of course they were different from deers, but not as different as they had always imagined - about leaving someone behind

I don't think I ever compared a Booker shortlisted book with an unspectacular version of The Hunger Games but The New Wilderness invoked this thought quite early on while reading. An other co

Curb Your Dystopianism

The New Wilderness sets a mother-daughter drama against a dystopian backdrop—a world overrun with polluted, overpopulated cities, with only one tiny pocket of nature remaining. Sounds compelling right? Sadly this story is more like a really terrible camping trip than a convincing possible future.

In the beginning, there were twenty. Officially, these twenty were in the Wilderness State as part of an experiment to see how people interacted wit
Gumble's Yard
Now shortlisted for the 2020 Booker shortlist - much the weakest on the list in my view (as it was weakest on the longlist also).

I have now read her previous short story collection "Man Vs. Nature" referred to below - and in my review ( I examine why that, in my view, was so much more successful as a short story collection than this was as a novel:


. walking ahead of the Commun
Prerna (on semi-hiatus)
Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize

According to a study of 293 of the world's leading port cities conducted by NASA, my quaint little coastal hometown is the most vulnerable of all of India's ports to the effects of climate change. The sea level is predicted to rise by 14.60 cm a century from now. What this means is that by 2100, my hometown will surely be uninhabitable and may go under water.

Although it may seem like an event in the distant, unfathomable future, we are facing its precursors r
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
The New Wilderness is an eco thriller/dystopian regarding climate change and overpopulation.

About the book: Helen Phillips meets Miranda July in this daring and imaginative debut novel that explores a moving mother-daughter relationship in a world ravaged by climate change and overpopulation, a suspenseful second book from the author of the acclaimed story collection, Man V. Nature.

My thoughts: This book is hard to describe other than to tell you it’s exciting and unlike anything else I’ve ever
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
From the description, I probably would not have been enticed into reading this ecological fable cum dystopian novel, were it not for its inclusion on this year's Booker longlist. And although the first few pages seemed promising, the further in I got, the more disenchanted I became. In an interview, the author is quoted as saying: "Many days, writing would feel like a slog just to get a few pages down while barely making a dent in the overall draft. There were still so many more pages to go. So ...more

It is hard to know if it was the casual mention of Miranda July in the book blurb or the blackly comical early demise of the group's river crossing expert in a river crossing incident (R.I.P Caroline), that led me to believe that this was going to be some sort of send-up of dystopias.

Exchanges like this seemed to be the punch line to a Monty Python skit :

"You've got to head Lower. And you know where I mean, right? Even though it's Lower, it's not just lower. "...
Carl growled, "Lower Middl
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020 (God only knows why - this one isn't even a political choice)

I do not normally seek out dystopian fiction, and have seen some negative reviews of this book from friends I trust, but I found it surprisingly gripping and for the most part credible.

In the future world of this book, most of the (American?) population lives in a single large City, which is becoming too polluted for children to thrive in. The Wilderness State is a state that has been set aside an
Diane Cook
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Even better than Man V. Nature.
Nenia ✨️ I yeet my books back and forth ✨️ Campbell

Don't @ me.
Peter Boyle
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: booker-nominee
This ecological tale is set in the near future. American cities have become overcrowded, consuming massive amounts resources, so that there only one area of untouched terrain left. Twenty volunteers choose to take part in an experiment, to see how they can survive in this "Wilderness state". They have minimal possessions and are allowed to hunt & forage, but they must leave no trace of themselves behind. They are expected to follow rules laid out in a manual, while Rangers watch their movements. ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Sep 26, 2020 marked it as did-not-finish
This is on the Booker shortlist and is a good reminder that I don't always agree with award judges' opinions. I have had to force myself to go back to it and had the realization that this is ridiculous and I should go give my attention to the other shortlisted titles before it's too late. I'm going to hang onto it in case someone changes my mind.... ...more
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am not the only avid reader that has become somewhat exhausted with the genre of dystopian fiction. There are still really thoughtful and unique contributions to that kind of literature, but the prospect of climate catastrophe and inchoate fascism at the doorstep makes reading about the end game of our trajectory less appealing.

Yet with the Booker Prize longlisting the debut novel of Diane Cook, The New Wilderness, I was compelled to throw myself into the thick of a world, not that different
Aug 13, 2020 rated it did not like it
(DNF 21% - rating based on the amount read)

I was very much looking forward to The New Wilderness having enjoyed a couple of Diane Cook’s stories. The premise is interesting, and who doesn’t want to read a bit of dystopia as the world continues to collapse? There are some promising moments early on, and hints at the potential for a building evocation of a believably fraught, chaotic America, a timely allegory, a new environmentally prescient slant on a familiar formula, as self-sabotaging dirty h
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
Desperate to escape a blighted urban wasteland, guided by the misguided, a band of roving "study participants" meets with all manner of ill fortune in the great outdoors. These often hapless citizens (simpletons?) roam a dwindling wilderness. Natural resources are increasingly scarce and climate change threatens what remains. Common sense is in very short supply and those most in need of it have joined forces because, regardless of environment, misery apparently does love company.

Let The Bungler
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the literary awards that I religiously follow every year is the Man Booker Prize which is in my opinion the only literary prize that accumulates the best of the best literature that comes out every year. Literature that is not lazy but striking and timelessly beautiful. The New Wilderness by Diane Cook has been longlisted for The Man Booker Prize this year and when I tell you that this book is a force of a story I’m not lying to you. Set in the near future, this novel introduces readers t ...more
Paul Fulcher
Sep 19, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker-2020, 2020
“Get me”— she panted— “out of here.”

A book seemingly inspired by I'm a Celebrity, and with the same lack of aspirations to artistic quality.

I did have hopes early on that this might be a satire on the colonialist settler myth:

They talked about it in epic terms around the fire for seasons afterward. It was their origin story, how they’d finally come to be a part of this land. It had felt like they’d accomplished something impossible. Like they had discovered a new world.

But seemingly this novel i
Diane S ☔
Dnf. Can't get into this, not the plot nor characters. It's on the booker long list though, so others must be having an easier time connecting. ...more
Eric Anderson
Given the urgency of the climate crisis and the difficulties of changing our way of living to save the planet, it's no wonder that we can easily envision a time when nature has been plundered of its resources and humans are scrambling to survive. Diane Cook dramatises this conflict in “The New Wilderness” not by showing the fall of society but by presenting a group of people who've reverted to a nomadic life where survival is truly a day to day struggle. The majority of the population lives in a ...more
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
The 2020 Booker longlist contains three books that I had already read before it was announced. It also contains two books that I had already decided I didn’t want to read. Of the remaining eight books, three were on my radar to read soon but five were completely new to me. I decided I would start my reading of the list by exploring some of the ones I had been unaware of. The New Wilderness is one of those five. It is also one of the relatively high number of debut novels on the list (and by one ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
In this book a mother and her sick daughter leave "the City" for "the Wilderness" in an effort to make the daughter healthier. It is part of an experiment to let a group of people live in the wilderness. The purposes of this experiment or the driving forces behind it aren't explained well in the book. Also unclear is the problem with the city and why it was making the children sick. There is a lot of description of ways of surviving in the wilderness, but many of these are not unique. Overall, I ...more
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020
The main idea of the book sounds amazing, but the novel suffers from three major flaws: The whole set-up makes no sense, there is not enough intellectual depth, and the character development is more or less non-existent. Cook intends to write a climate dystopia in which a group of people leaves the urban areas to live in the wilderness. The whole endeavor is described to be an experiment orchestrated by the authorities - but to what end, especially considerin
Renee Godding
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book only came to my attention because of its Booker prize nomination. Frankly, I don’t get the hype. It was an interesting premise that felt like it didn’t quite know where it wanted to go, resulting in a disjointed whole with some major pacing issues. Resorted to skim reading to finish the final third.
More thoughts/full review to come.
Katie Long
I don’t disagree with most of the criticism of this book, but somehow, I didn’t hate it. Yes, cliched characters and inconsistencies abound and the narrative seems to be plodding in a circle, much like the characters, but the mother/daughter dynamic kept me interested. The idea of resenting the selflessness that is often expected of motherhood, and having a primal love for someone you don’t like all that much, kept me engaged in a story I would otherwise have lost interest in early on.
Traci at The Stacks
Jan 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Cook is a strong writer. She crafts a world and a set of rules beautifully. The first 1/3 and last 1/3 are stellar. The middle drags. Overall really left me lots to think about in terms of humans mark on nature and the struggle of living without the assistance of technologies we’ve become reliant on. Also mother daughter stuff..but that was less interesting to me.
Jessica Woodbury
Yes, this is a book about life on the land in a dystopian future. But really, mostly, it's a book about mothers and daughters. When you take away all the trappings of daily life and take it down to just survival in a small group, all the ways in which the needs of one and the needs of the other conflict are suddenly bright and harsh. It is often not the case that what is best for the child is best for the parent, and vice versa. And when everything you do is seen, when it is impossible to take s ...more
The New Wilderness was an interesting enough read for me. It’s premise has a lot of potential; a survival experiment in the “last” wilderness reserve in a world that appears to be suffering from climate change and overpopulation. There’s scope here for great stories about survival at both a micro and macro level. Cook did have a lot of individually interesting things to say about what people are willing to do to survive and there are the bones of some really diverse interesting characters here. ...more
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Booker of the Month: GENERAL DISCUSSION (spoilers!) 7 43 Oct 05, 2020 12:42PM  
Booker of the Month: Questions for Diane Cook 2 21 Sep 29, 2020 07:04AM  
The Mookse and th...: 2020 Booker Shortlist: The New Wilderness 67 160 Sep 27, 2020 07:59AM  
Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] The New Wilderness by Diane Cook 3 11 Sep 03, 2020 11:51AM  

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Diane Cook is the author of the novel, THE NEW WILDERNESS, and the story collection, MAN V. NATURE, which was a finalist for the Guardian First Book Award, the Believer Book Award, and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her writing has appeared in Harper's, Tin House, Granta, and other publications, and her stories have been included in the anthologies Best American Shor ...more

Articles featuring this book

"Oh, we are living a dystopian reality!" You've heard it, you may have even said it. But despite what's happening in the world—or maybe because...
97 likes · 26 comments
“How people felt about one another was always in the voice. In the way they talked to one another when they thought they were alone.” 2 likes
“But most of the twenty didn’t know much about science, and many of them didn’t even care about nature. These twenty had the same reasons people have always had for turning their backs on everything they’d known and venturing to an unfamiliar place. They went to the Wilderness State because there was no other place they could go.” 2 likes
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