The best recent science fiction - reviews roundup
Naomi Booth's Sealed (Dead Ink, £15.99) fuses near-future eco-catastrophe with psychological horror to produce an accomplished, slow-burning meditation on motherhood, pregnancy and love. Reeling with grief after the loss of her mother, and horrified at the onset of a worldwide epidemic, pregnant Alice flees Sydney for the safety of a remote Blue Mountains settlement with her childhood sweetheart Pete.
Far from finding a refuge from her nightmares, however, Alice discovers that the epidemic has followed her. "Cutis" afflicts victims with outgrowths of skin covering all external orifices: is it humanity's way of protecting itself, Alice wonders, from the deadly poisons polluting the planet? Booth strikes a fine balance between portraying her as a paranoid obsessive and as a concerned mother-to-be reacting to the terrors of an increasingly toxic world. The tense, gut-wrenching climax is a masterclass in sustained descriptive imagery: though it's not for the faint-hearted, and expectant mothers might choose to steer clear, Sealed is a marvellous first novel.
2nd January 2018