Australian author Patrick Allington’s latest book Rise and Shine is an incredibly idiosyncratic, metaphorical post-apocalyptic dystopia. While it takes some time to come to terms with the premise, Allington uses his post-apocalyptic scenario not as an end in itself but to explore the human condition.
Rise and Shine opens sometime in the future and the world has been ravaged by a range of events that have left the ground and sky poisoned and the remnants of humanity confined to two cities – Rise and Shine. Even this tenuous survival is down to a group of five foresighted individuals and in particular their two leaders – Barton and Walker. These two now rule over the two cities and oversee a war between the two that sustains both populations. For in this new world, the sustenance of the people is provided purely through watching and engaging with the suffering of others. The populace feeds on images of a war that is carefully stage managed to ensure the flow of visual food for their populations. But there is a movement to bring this system down, to attempt to find clean water and soil and to grow real food, to use that food to both heal the growing number of sick (including Walker himself) and to break society’s dependence on violence as sustenance.
The allegorical nature of the premise allows Allington to dig deep into the humanity of his characters and some deeper themes. The moral quandary that those involved in the war find themselves in, the need for leaders to see past the immediate needs of the people to be able to envision a better world, the cult of personality and how it can be used for good and ill.
The best post-apocalyptic tales are those that use the trope to tell deeper stories. To strip away the comforts of civilisation and reveal what lies underneath. Rise and Shine is one of these. Allington is more like Kafka than, say Stephen King, in his use of genre stylings to not only explore how people react to adversity but to delve into deeper truths. He prompts readers to think differently about the media we consume, the climate we have created, the leaders we put our faith in and the role of individuals to make a difference in the world. Rise and Shine is a book that creates an extreme environment that asks its readers to think deeply about their world.