A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
I was at first attracted to this book by its cover – it looks like it’s been made out of a brown paper bag. The whole book is actually made from 100% recycled material, which conforms well to the story written on the pages. Set in the year 2015 (okay, slightly obvious from the title!) The Carbon Diaries is about a future where power scarce and the UK has just begun carbon rationing. The story is told in diary form by Laura Brown, a teenager living in London in the aftermath of The Great Storm. Due to excessive carbon emissions, the UK is the first country to issue everyone with a carbon allowance. Basically you get a card with points on it and every time you do anything power related points are deducted. Of course, almost everything you do involves power of some kind; watching TV, having a shower, getting to school, playing bass guitar.
And the worst thing is, on top of all this, me and Kim have to give up loads of our points for the family energy allowance, which leaves us some pathetic amount for travel, college, going out… The car’s gonna be cut way back, all of us get access to the PC, TV, HD, stereo for only 2 hours a day, heating is down to 16 degrees in the living room and 1 hour a day for the rest of the house, showers max 5 minutes, baths only at weekend. We’ve got to choose – hairdryer, toaster, microwave, smartphone, de-ioniser (Mum), kettle, lights, PDA, e-pod, fridge or freezer and on and on. Flights are a real no-no and shopping, travelling and going out not much better. It’s all kind of a choice.
The story charts the family’s spiral into despair as power cuts begin, Laura’s dad loses his job (he’s a lecturer in Travel and Tourism and no-one can go anywhere anymore), her sister starts black market racketeering in carbon points, her mum grows increasingly depressed at her dad’s drinking and Laura becomes obsessed with the gorgeous but unavailable boy next door. All this may make the story sound bleak and depressing but the chatty voice of Laura narrating these happenings through the eyes of a love-struck teenager lift this book into a class all of its own. I loved the combination of the very serious and downright horrifying nature of the subject matter (it all sounds a bit too real to me!) told by a sarcastic, witty teen.
So much for family togetherness. March is going to be the month of a thousand nights. Day 1 and I’m already going crazy. Every one of us is sitting in the dark in our own separate freezing rooms. Our ancestors couldn’t have had it this bad – at least they had candles and corsets and cards and lutes and shit. Oh yeah, and servants too.
The hydro gig’s coming up next week. There’s nothing going to stop me going, even if I have to walk there. I had to get off the bus today cos I didn’t have enough credit to get me all the way to college. I am a carbon leper.
Laura is everything teenagers today can identify with – she wants the boy, she wants to be in a band, she gets upset when her mobile runs out of charge but she has so much more to contend with. It is difficult to imagine a world where we can’t just plug stuff in or drive wherever we want or boil the kettle for a cup of tea, but The Carbon Diaries brings this situation into such sharp focus that it’s very frightening. And yet the chatty style, the humour and the ‘normality’ that the diarised format brings to the piece, although lifting the immediate angst, for me made it all the more real. This isn’t some dry report by a scientist full of technical jargon and mind-numbing complications, this is real people and real lives.
There’s just so much to love about this book; the amazingly resourceful Laura, who is still trying to lead a normal life, the scarily close to home nature of the imagined future and signs of human nature that are brought to the fore in times of trouble. I would highly recommend everyone to read it.