It is 2058. Rebecca, a widow, receives an invitation to leave Earth and start over, but nature has evolved and is tagging along for the ride.
Earthly Bodies is a dystopian eco-horror story that spans the ages, where strangers reveal their contribution to an extraordinary act of survival.
An artist ahead of his time crafts a new way of painting portraits, causing outcry and claims of heresy. A military man becomes obsessed with growing something he found on manoeuvres far from home. A lonely geneticist helps her brother with his plan to save humanity; secretly selecting humans to join a mission and escape a ravaged Earth. Rebecca seeks a fresh start, away from her devastating loss.
Harmony with Nature is everyone's wish. It's time to be careful what you wish for.
Readers of speculative fiction and feminist horror will enjoy this novel.
Earthly Bodies echoes the visionary environmental scope of The Overstory and Annihilation, with the horror of Naomi Booth's Sealed, and a structure more like Station Eleven.
I read Susan Earlam's Earthly Bodies at the beginning of the year, so I don't remember a lot of it. I do remember it taking me AGES to finish, mostly because I was in a bit of a reading slump while I tried to make my way through it, but also because I just didn't like execution.
The story here is good, but the way it was told sucked. At first, I thought the writing was beautiful, but as the book went on, I struggled to find the beauty. It was almost like the author slowly ran out of steam as she wrote this.
Earthly Bodies started strong, but got sloppy somewhere along the way.
I think the author very badly needed a good editor to cut out and reorder some things that happened in this book. I remember being frustrated by the perspective shifts because it made the pace slower than it needed to be. I also remember a scene where an important plot point is essentially spoiled by an unnecessary perspective shift. So by the time the protagonist discovered what happened, the reader already knows, and I couldn't help thinking how much better of a reveal it would have been if the reader had learned about it with the protagonist.
One of my reading pet peeves is dream sequences and this book had several. I know this is a personal issue, but I hate it when stories use dreams as a safe space to insert "scary" moments. And speaking of scary, the atmosphere and creep factor really took a back seat here. I was really sad about it because I love sci-fi horror, but there honestly wasn't much horror here.
And that's all I remember.
I rated Susan Earlam's Earthly Bodies 3 out of 5 stars. The story was good, but the way it was told was far messier than it needed to be.
This felt like a dark doctor who episode but without the assurance of the doctor being there to save us. It felt so immensely frightening being face to face with our possible future, the consequences of our actions and the power of nature. Indeed, there won't be a doctor to save us from us. Humanity will eventually have to save itself, most likely after too much loss.
Let me take a second to acknowledge the cover art. *Sigh*. Lovely.
Okay, now lets jump into it.
Earthly Bodies is an eco-horror that tenderly explores human interaction with nature. (Can I pause here and reiterate that it's an eco-horror?! I really enjoyed this aspect).
“Plants can adapt to anything, humans cannot."
Earthly Bodies introduces a variety of characters, world elements (like the MAGIE: Mindful, Able, Genderless, Inter-operable Entities), and underlying themes. Susan Earlam brings forward interesting ideas, and for 377 pages, there is a lot to unpack.
Earlam took me away from a tired, consumed Earth, and out into space. Sliding into a sleep pod, invited individuals are carried into space for a fresh start. And although this is no small journey…it seems not everything can be planned for.
“…We were all in such a rush to get off Earth…”
Earthly Bodies is eerie and thought-provoking. Spanning over a variety of time periods, I enjoyed the opportunity to see the story unfold from several character perspectives. Switching from first and third person, Earlam added an additional layer to how I got to know each of the characters.
During the beginning though, I found it difficult to connect to characters. There was a lot of information about their past, and although valuable, I felt it could have been interwoven with the story in other ways. Just after the halfway point, I found the pace picked up and the storyline started to unfold nicely, making it harder to put down.
I enjoyed the array of information/facts that Earlam presented. It could have been overwhelming, but Earlam did a nice job of incorporating the information. It added to the storyline, divulging good details.
With stimulating ideas, I found Earthly Bodies to be an overall good read. However, the ending did feel a bit rushed and yearned for more. And No matter, it was a fun read!
Content Warnings ⚠️: Suicide, Death, Graphic descriptions of blood and other violence
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily because books are cool.
This book started slow but definitely built up the mystery of what could happen, then when events started happening on the ship I couldn’t put the book down. I would class this as a sci-fi horror and the whole evolution side is interesting reading.
I connected with the main characters, especially Rebecca, and there were more than a few parts that hit me in the feels. I was dubious about the MAGIE (Mindful, Able, Genderless, Inter-operable Entities) at first, but they definitely grew on me. The scenery and settings are described perfectly and I could imagine every little detail and felt like I was really there with them. I was hooked as the story unravels the scary but believable plot and I have no idea what I would have done if I was in that situation.
The things that stopped me giving 5 stars were the section with the renaissance painter Giuseppe (I understand why this was in here for the history, but I just didn’t connect to him as a character), and I wanted a little bit more explanation about things at the end – what it actually means going forward (can’t say more without spoilers).
Thoroughly enjoyable and I can’t wait for Susan to release another novel.
*I received a complimentary copy of the e-book from BookSirens and am voluntarily leaving an honest review.
Earthly Bodies is the story of a group of people who have been chosen to leave a broken Earth and go in search of a new home. Accompanying them are the MAGIE (Mindful, Able, Genderless, Inter-operable Entities).... and an invader from Earth that has hitched along for the ride.
The book starts at a relaxed pace with lots of interesting worldbuilding. I enjoyed the chance to get to know the characters and notice the effects of environmental destruction on the planet before the plot really takes off. Rebecca's backstory was particularly moving. She is the protagonist of the book, but there are several other characters who are well fleshed out.
The point of view moves between several characters, using a mixture of first and third person. Each chapter is split into short scenes. It's very easy to read, almost addictive.
Once the group leaves Earth, the pace picks up, until finally the book races to a conclusion. The ending was a bit sudden but I thought it was the perfect resolution to the story.
In the Kindle edition I noticed quite a few SPAG/tense-slip errors but they didn't spoil the story. I look forward to reading future novels or short stories by Susan Earlam.
I did enjoy the trip from earth to space. However the beginning is kind of slow and I really am tempted to skip ahead (but I didnt, thankfully)
It is a story of different person all aboard on a ship to somewhere other than the earth. A dystopian future where infections and something invade the earth makes it unlivable to some. To create better humanity , few people were specifically chosen and invited to sleep in a pod-like machine that slows their aging and metabolism so when they woke up years later, it will still feels like yesterday.
The mystery kept coming and there’s never been an idle moment in the ship for Rebecca and even Annabelle. The supposed to be avoid and hated robot MAGIE now could be a potential ally for them to survive.
Can humanity survive after the destruction made by their own hand ?
Although Rebecca is from the future , she didnt really act like it. Shes interested in an era way before her. Maybe because her parents taught her different ?
I received an arc for an honest review. Thank you writer for this book !
A hugely impressive debut novel, Earthly Bodies is equal parts 'leaving Terra' science fiction in the vein of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, and the nature as a superior force warning of John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids. There's also an underlying a tone which at times brings to mind Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. The influences are all there but underpinned with the author's own feminine sensibilities. Flashes from the future present to recent and ancient history flesh out some beautifully realised characters before dropping them into truly horrific situations. Skillfully balancing the science with all-out sci-fi-horror, this is intelligent, highly visual storytelling. Highly recommended.
A space mission to help save humanity from an uninhabitable Earth goes terribly wrong in this eco-horror novel about nature and infection.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a sixteenth century Italian painter, who was born and died in Milan. While he painted traditional court portraits of rich royals, he's most remembered for his fascinatingly strange still-life human heads: instead of painting flesh, Arcimboldo depicted fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other inanimate objects--arranged to look like a person. These paintings are simultaneously grotesque and whimsical, with political commentary on the wealthy and symbolic gestures lurking in Arcimboldo's artistic choices and placements.
Arcimboldo is also an important character in Susan Earlam's feminist eco-horror/body horror dystopian novel Earthly Bodies--an epic tale of climate disaster and infection outbreak that spans from Arcimboldo's time to the future. Earthly Bodies is a carefully composed nonlinear narrative, which mostly follows a cast of characters who've set out on a humanity-saving space mission. Unfortunately, people aren't the only life form on the ship: a new species is growing in the vessel's murky depths, and it's evolving fast.
In 2058, Earth is quickly falling apart and becoming less and less habitable. Rebecca, a recent widow, decides to leave her old life behind and accept an invitation to start over. She, along with other specially selected humans and a group of robots called MAGIE, will head to space and attempt to ensure the survival of the human species elsewhere. Unbeknownst to the passengers is the shady figure behind this plan: a disgraced tech entrepreneur who faked his own death. A Royal Air Force time traveler and a mysterious psychoanalyzing head geneticist are also along for the ride. As the characters bond and cycle between periods of sleep in pods containing an ominous fluid, the mission starts to go very wrong. People start getting sick, especially men, and the disease seems to be spreading fast. Plus, there's some kind of strange mushroom fungus growing up through the floors. The passengers need to stay healthy if they want to be able to repopulate, but what if what's going on inside the ship is too dangerous and powerful to stop?
Earthly Bodies starts as a slow-burn, descriptive speculative fiction narrative, but then the book explodes into a frightening, tense, and entertainingly disgusting climax of body modification and contagion. And, just like Arcimboldo's paintings, there's some serious social commentary underpinning all the unnerving imagery. Although the outbreak spreads and works in a network similar to the technology of the internet, it's an entirely biological phenomenon. In Susan Earlam's world, the presence of more advanced forms of artificial intelligence isn't the threat to humanity: instead, it's a seemingly unstoppable force of nature. If humans want to survive, they'll have to figure out a balance--how to bond with nature and respect it, instead of continuing to engage in devastating destruction.
Earthly Bodies has been out for just over a month and I'm thrilled with the response. This book taught me a lot and Rebecca is still very much with me. I wonder what she would think about our world and state of affairs in the current moment. I know I keep spotting headlines that echo what happens in the book, but I think this is common for speculative fiction authors. Sometimes real life just needs a nudge too.
Thoroughly enjoyed this book, I loved the style and although there is time and voice jumping, it isn’t unclear, even the style of voice changed just enough between characters to give a better sense of character. I was sucked in by some of the visual descriptors of certain events, which have stayed in my head since! I haven’t read much eco horror before but it’s definitely a genre I want to explore more, now, after Earthly Bodies. I also really enjoyed the juxtaposition of such earthy smells and sights of the plants with the clinically metal/cleanness of the ship. A great first novel, and a brilliant intro to eco-horror if you’re exploring new genres!
A brilliant, bold debut novel. This was a slow builder, but Susan's ability to use sparse, effective prose to paint a rich, textured world with lively characters meant this is a good thing. With shades of Ridley Scott's Alien, it swerved pastiche and employed the scarcity that made the film a sci-fi/horror classic, then took things to a darker place, giving us a glimpse of the world we are wrecking at an alarming rate. A tense, intriguing, and absorbing horrific slab of pulsating eco-horror well worth your time.
Great nature-fights-back body horror! It reminded me a lot of the film ‘Life’ and did everything that I had expected to get from Wilder Girls which had ended up disappointing me.
There are quite a few typos that made it confusing at times and there were some side plots that I wished had been a little more fleshed out. Also the lack of emotion in the main character sometimes took me out of the story, but as a lot of it was written as a journal the choice made sense.
This starts off as dystopian sci-fi and slowly moves into horror territory.
A group of people are selected based on undisclosed criteria to travel off a rapidly dying Earth as humanity's last hope. The whole enterprise is run by a millionaire who fakes his own death and his sister operates as the face of the endeavour. I liked the nature overtones in the horror and the idea of not knowing who to trust when everything on the planet is falling apart.
I would like to thank Speleorex Press and BookSirens for allowing me to read this ARC free for an honest review. Due to climate change, over population and pollution, the Earth is dying. But all is not lost. A ship has been built and is ready to launch. All it needs is people who will travel to another world and start again. Rebecca is one of those people and this book is the story of her journey. Not all is as it appears, though. A contagion starts on the ship and the survivors know they have to head back to Earth if any are to survive. This story was okay, somewhat suspenseful. At times I found it confusing, but not enough to keep me from reading it. There wasn’t as much detail as I would have liked and not a lot of characters to like. It kind of reminded me of Brian Lumley’s short story, Fruiting Bodies.