Far North is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.
My father had an expression for a thing that turned out bad. He'd say it had gone west. But going west always sounded pretty good to me. After all, westwards is the path of the sun. And through as much history as I know of, people have moved west to settle and find freedom. But our world had gone north, truly gone north, and just how far north I was beginning to learn.
Out on the frontier of a failed state, Makepeace—sheriff and perhaps last citizen—patrols a city's ruins, salvaging books but keeping the guns in good repair.
Into this cold land comes shocking evidence that life might be flourishing elsewhere: a refugee emerges from the vast emptiness of forest, whose existence inspires Makepeace to reconnect with human society and take to the road, armed with rough humor and an unlikely ration of optimism.
What Makepeace finds is a world unraveling: stockaded villages enforcing an uncertain justice and hidden work camps laboring to harness the little-understood technologies of a vanished civilization. But Makepeace's journey—rife with danger—also leads to an unexpected redemption.
Far North takes the reader on a quest through an unforgettable arctic landscape, from humanity's origins to its possible end. Haunting, spare, yet stubbornly hopeful, the novel is suffused with an ecstatic awareness of the world's fragility and beauty, and its ability to recover from our worst trespasses.
Theroux's postapocalyptic road novel will inevitably be compared to that other postapocalyptic road novel Oprah liked, and while Theroux (son of Paul) is not the existential stylist McCarthy is, he is a superior plotter. Global warming has decimated civilization, and narrator Makepeace Hatfield is the sole survivor of her Siberian settlement. After coming across another survivor and seeing a plane in the sky, Makepeace heads out to find other settlements. Unfortunately, Horeb, the first settlement she finds, is Hobbesian, and the camp's leader, Reverend Boathwaite, sells her into a slave gang. Marched a thousand miles west to an old gulag, Makepeace spends five years as a slave and eventually escapes after she's dispatched as a slave-guard to a ravaged city now known as the Zone. Teaming up with another escaped slave, the two try to trek back to Makepeace's original home, but tragedy strikes again. Granted, the novel suffers from a certain predetermination to tell the tale means that the taleteller survives but Theroux succeeds in crafting a wildly eccentric and intelligent page-turner that's ultimately and strangely hopeful.
One of the few books I read almost in one sitting in recent years. Told in the first person, it chronicles a post apocalyptic journey across Siberia. Unlike other post apocalyptic fiction, this reads more like a diary of the human condition, rather than an indictment of technology or politics. And Theroux's writing style is particularly accessible and engaging.