Patrick Allington’s second novel, Rise & Shine, drops us headfirst into a future in the wake of an ecological catastrophe that claimed the lives of more than eight billion people. The survivors reside in the city-states of Rise and Shine, which are constantly at war with each other, and the bloody footage is broadcast to the populace’s “autoscreens” as the sole source of nourishment. These graphic images of human suffering keep the residents alive as they obsess over the gory details and the military heroes featured.
In exchange for its continued survival, the population lives under the tight control of Walker and Barton, who along with their inner circles of advisers are always pulling the strings. The pair don’t want the public to know that the war they’ve been waging for 33 years was imagined by them and can stop at any time they choose, or that they select the puppet presidents who are supposed to be elected. And most importantly, they don’t want the public to know that among them are people for whom watching the footage no longer works. Allington’s tightly plotted book has us follow characters, both within Walker’s circle and without, whose paths skilfully intersect in this decisive moment of the cities’ joint history.
The novel strikes a balance between the absurd and the horrific that feels reminiscent of George Saunders’ science-fiction work. And although Allington’s writing isn’t as snappy or his satire quite as fine-tuned, there’s no denying his novel’s effectiveness in critiquing the bald-faced lies that politicians are prepared to tell – the way they use nice-sounding words and good intentions to repackage existing injustices and inhumanities. Walker’s mantra of “politeness, always politeness” is a facade constructed to hide the immense control he exercises, the people he detains and the ways they are degraded.
And Allington vividly portrays the depth of the public’s indoctrination. One of the novel’s pivotal scenes shows a character being abducted from her home by the military police. “I do apologise for the intrusion,” the officer says after gagging her, “but it’s unavoidable under the circumstances. Let’s not make a fuss or worry your neighbours.” The woman protests before thinking better of it, reflecting on her deep belief in Walker’s mantra as she chillingly repositions the gag over her own mouth.
Scribe, 240pp, $27.99
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 13, 2020 as "Patrick Allington, Rise & Shine".
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