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The Electric Kingdom

By David Arnold

Reviewed by Margaret McKay-Lowndes

So much of the literature we enjoy today has been inspired by the monumental events of the 20th century: two world wars, the Great Depression, the Cold War and the list goes on. It makes sense, then, that in these days of a catastrophic health crisis, stories will emerge that are inspired by the global pandemic.

This is true of best-selling author David Arnold’s The Electric Kingdom, in which humanity has been wiped out by swarms of mutated bees/flies who carry a deadly flu. The advent of the Flu Fly has returned civilisation to a primitive hand-to-mouth existence in which there is no technology, electricity, or agriculture, and only a handful of people.

Into this world Arnold introduces his characters: lone survivors Nico and her father who live on an isolated farmhouse; Kit, his mother Dakota, and his friends Monty and Lakie who live in the abandoned Town; Lennon and Loretta who are on their way to Boston; and the shadowy Deliverer, whose role in the story is revealed gradually, creating suspense and mystery.

Nico’s father, a scientist, encourages her to journey to Manchester, New Hampshire, to find the geological anomaly which is central to her fate. He has related a mythical tale, featuring a Voyager, a Bellringer, and a Cormorant and it is Nico’s destiny to piece these fragments together to discover the anomaly and attempt to save the world.

Arnold’s writing is compelling, with vivid descriptions of the deadly Fly swarms, which sit alongside metaphysical discussions of the meaning of life and many literary references as the complex characters make their way through the terrifying New Hampshire landscape on their action-packed journey. The grim reality of a world stripped of modern comforts is balanced by the humanity of the characters and occasional humour as Arnold explores themes of grief, love, and the importance of art and literature in our lives.

It’s a big read at 400+ pages with a complex plot.  Nevertheless, lovers of sci-fi, fantasy and David Arnold’s work will love it. Recommended for readers 13+

Teaching Notes

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