Originally published: 26 July 2018
The Survival Game is set in a world in the near future, where Global Warming has become a real problem and the Arctic ice cap has melted, temperatures are rising and the everyone is trying to get to somewhere with a cooler climate to survive.
14-year-old Mhairi, whose father was born on the Isle of Arran in Scotland and whose mother is from Sudan. We join the story with Mhairi alone, having managed to travel from the Sudan to Cairo before being deported to England. The only two things she owns are a gun with no bullets and her papers. After escaping a riot at the Heathrow Detention Centre, she is travelling on foot to try and get back to her grandmother on the Isle of Arran where she should be allowed to live on account of her global passport and the fact she is a juvenile.
She comes across a small boy who is alone and doesn’t speak and although she doesn’t want the burden of caring for anyone else, especially an illegal who doesn’t have any papers, she finds herself starting to care for the boy as they journey together.
I really enjoyed this book (but I do like a good dystopian read)! This was a great look at a future using issues that we are dealing with today such as global warming and the attitude we have towards refugees. It is shocking how the world has turned out – one of the new rules is that anyone who lives to 74 has to agree to be euthanised to help keep the world’s population under control. The lengths people will go to, to protect themselves and what they have shows how desperate things have become. It’s a story of survival and morality. It’s an alarming and emotional read and Mhairi is a great narrator.
Many thanks to Hodder Children’s book for my Advanced Readers Copy. The book is published on 26th July and it’s a must buy!
About the author:
Nicky has written four novels for adults, two books of non-fiction but most of her recent work is for young people. Her first children’s novel Feather Boy won the Blue Peter ‘Book of the Year’ Award, was adapted for TV (winning a BAFTA for Best Children’s Drama) and then commissioned by the National Theatre as a musical with lyrics by Don Black and music by Debbie Wiseman. In 2010 Nicky was asked by Glyndebourne to adapt her novel Knight Crew (a re-telling of the King Arthur legend set in contemporary gangland) for an opera with music by Julian Philips. In 2012 her play Island (about ice-bears and the nature of reality) premiered at the National Theatre and toured 40 London schools. She subsequently re-wrote Island as a novel with illustrations by former Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell.
Here, Nicky Singer, explains the where the idea for the book came from…
Many moons ago, I asked my friend Tom Burke (then Director of Friends of the Earth) what he really thought would happen if we failed to get to grips with increasing global temperatures.
‘Well,’ he replied, ‘you’d better be prepared to go to Scotland and take a gun.’
The image stayed with me – but I didn’t know how to write the book he was telling me needed to be written. The subject was too big, too disempowering – people’s eyes glazed over when you mentioned it.
Years later, a chance encounter with a real climate-change story (melting ice-graves on the Artic island of Herschel) gave me a way in to the subject and I wrote a pay – Island – for the National Theatre, which I later re-wrote as a novel. The book made the Carnegie longlist and was routinely called ‘beautiful’, ‘calm and magical’ and ‘full of wisdom’, but somehow the Artic setting meant that, for most people, the drama was just too far away – both geographically and emotionally. Not our problem.
Then came the migrant crisis – and the hardening of attitudes and borders. And now the girl with the gun came back to nag me. Might her story intersect with this new anxiety? And why were we so anxious anyway, so lacking in empathy? I began to think it might be because for us in the north (in Europe particularly) the migrant is almost always ‘other’ – we are not the displaced, the ones forced to travel. So here was my challenge: could I finally bring this story ‘home’? Write about a very near future where one of those displaced people could truthfully be you – or me?
Yes, said the girl with the gun.