Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back, by Mark O’Connell, had me in fits of laughter several times, and I very much appreciated the author’s droll sense of humour.
O’Connell meets up with various people who believe they are preparing for the apocalypse. The apocalypse may arrive, so O’Connell discovers, as a result of climate change, a nuclear war, a meteor impact with Earth, a rampaging virus, or a few other worst-case scenarios, and numerous people, including environmentalists, survivalists and billionaires are planning for #TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) in different ways. There are even several support industries catering for such people.
The most popular locations for seeing out the apocalypse seem to be South Dakota, where you can buy a spartan bunker, New Zealand, which is particularly popular with billionaires such as Peter Thiel, and the Highlands of Scotland!
This book was a hoot, but there is also a serious side to O’Connell. One of his important points is that those who are prepping for an apocalypse appear to be motivated purely in order to enable their own survival, whereas a less self-obsessed reaction would surely be to try to mitigate the worst aspects of any future doomsday, or work towards preventing it altogether.
Notes is much more than a series of encounters with apocalypse-hunting nutters, a la Louis Theroux, however. Let’s put it this way – the boy can write, he is creative, and in particular, the chapter entitled Under the Hide, set partially in Scotland, is very different and also a perfect joy to read, from beginning to end. He also has the angle on Trump, writing about America, “Its middle class has been gutted, sold off for scrap. Trump is only the most visible symptom of a disease that has long been sickening the country’s blood – a rapidly metastasizing tumor of inequality, hyper-militarism, racism, surveillance, and fear that we might as well go ahead and diagnose as terminal-stage capitalism.”
If you read one book during the lockdown, it should be Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back. It is topical, philosophical, and considering its subject matter, strangely uplifting.