Catastrophic Consequences: New Novel America City by Chris Beckett

News of not one but two new books from Chris Beckett broke before the weekend. The first, America City, marks something of a sea change for the Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author, “in that all three of its predecessors were set on [his] sunless planet, Eden, but this takes place in North America in the twenty-second century. No more glowing forests or hmmmphing trees,” then, though Beckett believes readers “may still be able to spot links of various kinds between America City and the Eden books.”

They’re not obvious from the synopsis, so I’m going to guess the connections Beckett mentions are thematic rather than substantial. See for yourself:

The United States a century in the future. As a result of climate change, powerful hurricanes hit the east coast every year, each time a little further north. And large areas of the southern half of the US have insufficient water, meaning that many towns and cities, and whole swathes of farmland, are no longer viable. Each year a steady stream of refugees from southern states heads north, but they meet an increasingly frosty welcome, and some northern states are threatening frontier controls to keep them out.

Holly Peacock, a bright young British PR professional who has settled in the US, begins to work for a charismatic US Senator called Stephen Slaymaker, who rose from poverty via army service in Africa to build up one of America’s largest trucking businesses. Slaymaker is campaigning for a huge government-funded programme to shift the American population northwards, and so prevent the north-south divide from tearing America apart. When Slaymaker stands for President, this Reconfigure America programme is at the core of his platform and Holly’s job is to win support for it.

But how to sell the idea to northern voters that they should welcome in millions of refugees from the south, and pay for it too in their taxes? Working closely with Slaymaker, Holly finds a way, but it involves fighting dirty and has catastrophic consequences which she didn’t anticipate at all.

America City is coming out from Atlantic Books’ genre fiction imprint Corvus on November 2nd.

And a mere couple of months later, Corvus is also planning to publish Spring Tide, a third collection—after the Edge Hill Short Fiction Award-winning The Turing Test and The Peacock Cloak in 2013—of Beckett’s short stories. This, too, is rather a departure, as it differs from the aforementioned collections in several respects:

Firstly, all the stories are original to this book and have never appeared in print before. Secondly, this book will represent my first published foray outside of the parameters of science fiction. Some of the 21 stories in this book include fantastical elements, but none of them (at least according to my definition) could be described as SF.

How about that? I mean, sure, it’s pretty typical today—predictable, even—to see figures from literary fiction turning their attention on the genre, but you don’t often see genre authors move towards the mainstream in turn. I have every faith in Chris Beckett, however. If anyone can do make a success of a genre-crossing short story collection, that man can.

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and Tor.com. He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.

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