(2019) Mike Pearl, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, 283pp, ISBN 978-1-473-68557-4
Initially, written in a similar theme to Talking to Robots by David Ewing Duncan, Mike Pearl’s The Day it Finally Happens is a collection of essays that outline a speculative premise and then interview different experts in the field of aspects of the particular premise to determine whether such an event is likely to occur.
With chapter titles like, “The Day the UK Finally Abolishes its Monarchy”, Pearl engages the reader immediately with his subject material. Each subject is prefaced with a newspaper article or a short piece of fiction to establish the context of the premise and then moves on to explore the possible “What if” being proposed.
All of Pearl’s chapters are posing questions we have considered. Some of them have a strong science fiction premise – such as “The Day Humans Become Immortal” or “The Day Humans Get a Confirmed Signal from Extra-terrestrials”. In these chapters, Pearl is using a classic story structure by changing something in society through a cognitive framework – as Darko Suvin suggested – and then exploring the consequences and the existing relevant societal, cultural, political or scientific context. This makes for a highly informed discussion on a variety of big question topics that are very relevant to the world today.
In many ways The Day if Finally Happens is peddling dystopian mythology to a readership that is seeing dystopian dangers all around, but Pearl’s discussions on each subject are not solely concerned with the armageddons associated with some of the world-shaking moments he is describing. Indeed, if they were, they would be a great deal less interesting to read. Instead, through interviews, research and his own speculation, Pearl attempts to consider all the different changes that will occur when the one thing he has proposed in each chapter, happens. It is this attempted attention to detail that makes the book valuable to readers as they try to grasp the real-world consequences of a variety of different situations that Pearl elects to explore. For example, “The Day Humans Get a Confirmed Signal From Extra-terrestrials” outlines some of the protocols associated with the event were it to happen and discusses the genuine concerns over the societies degenerating into chaos in the aftermath of a confirmed contact with aliens, which might not be the first plot point on a film director’s script when attempting to make their next science fiction blockbuster.
Of much more concern is “The Day the Antibiotics Stopped Working”. This premise is explored in more detail and interspersed with a variety of accounts from actual events, discussing the spread of epidemics and their rate of infection, the concept of antibiotics working against you and helping the sickness and the experience of septicaemia. Some of the anecdotes in this chapter are rewritten and some are actual occurrences, but it is here that Pearl pulls no punches and lays on the legitimate fearmongering, outlining how reliant our society is on its wonder drugs. The Day it Finally Happens is an excellent collection of essays that provides informative takes on each outlined scenario. Mike Pearl ensures that you’ll walk away from this book a little bit scared, but also, a little bit wiser.
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