I have to admit that I’m somewhat of a fanatic of post-apocalyptic survival books. I can’t say precisely what it is about the genre that appeals to me, perhaps the promise of a new beginning, but whatever it is, The Upside of Down: The Sky Above and The Mud Below by Joel Bernard fit the bill.
The story is written from the perspective of the characters in a somewhat futuristic but not too distant future when climate change has caused a global catastrophe. Wildfires, storm surges, flooding, drought, superstorms, tornadoes, and the like were catalysts to a vast migration. People from the southern US were moving North, and those from the coasts were moving inland.
Although I enjoyed the book, there were some issues. The first drawback I found was that the sheer number of characters was overwhelming. Constantly switching back and forth between characters, perspectives, and even storylines, made it difficult to form an attachment to some individuals. Then some of the characters were dead, and we only hear from them after they are dead, which does very little to advance the plot since all they can talk about is being dead.
There seemed to be some vagueness about what happened to Moses, a likable character that lived in a church and could “get things.” It appeared that he had become an integral part of one of the wandering groups but then was killed, and there was a ceremony of some sort to mark his passing. However, none of these events are presented to the reader directly. I’m not sure if the chapters were edited out or the author didn’t smooth the plot development out quite right, but Moses got lost in the story.
I believe the author meant this novel to be a morality tale. The situations presented and the scientific information presented in hindsight musings told the story of a civilization that did not heed scientific warnings. The result was this calamitous new world humans struggled to survive in. Unfortunately, the story lacked immediacy. There was a lot of cloud gathering and navel-gazing by the characters, who realistically would be more focused on adapting to their harsh surroundings as they exhaustingly traveled hundreds of miles on foot to their hoped-for destinations.
So although I enjoyed the book, the meandering storyline in The Upside of Down: The Sky Above and The Mud Below by Joel Bernard might not be something everyone would enjoy.
I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can see my review here.