The Absolute Book
“He’s going to do it, she thought. God help us all. He really does mean to save the world”
The Absolute Book is a multi-plot YA fantasy crime thriller that builds on Norse, Celtic-British, and Arthurian mythologies. One story is that of 20-something Taryn Cornick, whose older sister had been murdered a few years back; how the murder broke Taryn and eventually led her to plot a self-defeating revenge. Another story is a search for a rare manuscript, the Firestarter, wanted by angels, demons, and elves—called sidhe in the book. Yet another is how our world is just one of many parallel universes inhabited by different beings and how what happens in one world affects others. Which is where human assault on the biosphere comes in.
While the novel does not deal with climate change as such, it features a half-elf protagonist, “the little god of the marshlands” (431). Named Shift, he feels nature in the human world crying “save us” (see animism): the trees, the marsh, the hedgerow, the dune grass, “the mass of things that know without thinking what they want me to be” (431, see nature’s agency). At the end of the story, Shift acquires extraordinary powers of creating interdimensional gates between any two or more universes. And on what seems like a whim, he chooses to save Earth from the climate catastrophe. “I’m hoping the sidhe will like to have something new to do,” he says. “Something really difficult. After all, they are the descendants of people who did something formidably difficult. They made a world out of pieces of other very different worlds. Any people who once built the house for themselves can certainly repair someone else’s house” (628-9).
Just how the transformation to an ecological civilization happens is hinted in the Epilogue. Imagine someone would invite frost giants to move from their realm to Antarctica for a couple of years. Or transubstantiate all crude oil reserves on Earth into water. Imagine someone inviting the elves to secretly restore Earth’s biodiversity and wilderness. Radical changes occur without warning. A long stretch of a highway is replaced overnight with an old-growth forest (see afforestation). Governments and corporations are perplexed as the world declares them “unfit for command” (651). The Epilogue, “a history of how all this came to pass” (648), showcases the cultural work of fantasy for the Anthropocene—a story in which anticipatory, hope-oriented imagination empowers readers to imagine an ecocentric alternative to the ecocidal status quo. The solutions are magical (see fantastic solutionism). But the satisfaction of imagining how the world is saved from petrosuicide is real. Use the Epilogue to consider how the legal, political, and economic systems of our ecocidal civilization are locked in a deadlock they are unable to break. Consider the power of fantasy, hope, and anticipatory imagination to bring about real-life change.
©2021 ClimateLit (Marek Oziewicz)
For other examples of fantastic solutionism see, among others, Rachel Hope Allison’s I’m Not a Plastic Bag as well as TV shows The Legend of Korra, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and Steven Universe.
Audience: Rebels (14-older)
Topics: Afforestation, Animals, Animism, Anthropocene, Biodiversity, Biosphere, Climate Crisis, Commons, Ecocentrism, Ecocide, Ecological Civilization, Fantastic Solutionism, Fantasy, Hope, Human Impact, Limits, Nature, Nature's Agency, Planetarianism, Pollution, Rewilding, Solutions, Wilderness