Already held in high regard for her many popular science books and her work in the field of neuroscience, Susan Greenfield has now turned her considerable talent toward fiction. Her debut novel, 2121, is a dystopian saga that channels the spirit of Aldous Huxley.
It imagines a world where the constant barrage of information experienced by every human has made hunger and pain a memory, but has also rendered society as a construct obsolete. People now live in ‘dwellings’ isolated from each other and surrounded by intense sensory input ‘on-tap’ that distracts them but, really, provides nothing.
Parallel to this, there exists another society that broke away from the stimulation-seeking world in its early days to live an isolated and Spartan existence in order to preserve the virtues of contemplation and reflection. These societies exist independently of each other, until one day someone crosses the mountains that separate them, igniting a clash of civilisation and philosophy.
Subtitled ‘A Tale from the Next Century’, 2121 is a kind of just-around-the-corner vision of the future, informed by Greenfield’s comprehensive writings on the way 21st century technology is altering the way we think. While remaining resolutely a work of fiction, 2121 cleverly exploits the writer’s background in accessible science writing to create a world that is unique, believable and free from the logical loose-ends that can sometimes afflict less accomplished future fiction. The result is a confident first novel that is made all the more terrifying by its plausibility.
2121 was in the running for our 2013 First Book Award.