I love giving book recommendations! Over the course of writing a book, I will update my goodreads shelves whenever I have an ‘aha!’ moment, where I realise where I’m getting my inspiration from (put in a different way: where I’m stealing the best bits from). I find it really fascinating to see how my brain processes the things I’ve read and watched and spits them out as something new. Here are some of the things that went into The Quiet at the End of the World – and here’s the goodreads shelf, if you want to see the rest.
This is – well, it’s a science fiction and fantasy series set in a world where extinction events destroy civilisation every hundred years, the survivors have to try and relearn how to create a society from the remains of cultures that surround them. This is exactly my sort of thing – archaeology as a means of survival. It’s about legend and science, and how to work out which is which. It’s about found families and slave races and something like magic. It uses archaeology in a very different way from The Quiet at the End of the World, but it will make you really think just as much.
It’s diverse and full of plot twists and changes in perspective and the most wonderful characters. But what makes this series really special is that it uses the writing in a completely different way from anything I’ve ever seen. It’s a masterclass in originality.
The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
I read this while I was writing The Quiet at the End of the World, and it was like Elizabeth Wein had reached inside my brain and found the perfect book I needed to read at that point in my writing life. I’m a huge fan of thirties detective novels like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, and this is my perfect spin on that – there’s murder, rich people living frivolously, dogs, Bronze age marine archaeology, castles, cross-dressing Cabaret shows, TREASURE-HUNTING, pearls, buried treasure (did I mention the treasure?), river trawling and Harriet Vane mentions. I’m so into it in every way.
This is a non fiction biography of a man’s determination to track where some of his family’s old antiques came from, and the stories behind them. It goes from Japan to Nazi-occupied Vienna, back to Japan, and then London. It’s a great look at the history each object holds, and it’s one of the reasons why I wanted to write about treasure-hunters, searching for lost objects.
Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind by Jill Cook
No spoilers, but this book inspired a pivotal moment of The Quiet at the End of the World. It’s also just a fascinating read, and tells you a lot about the human mind, and how little it has changed in hundreds of thousands of years.
I don’t agree with several of the interpretations of what objects were used for (I don’t really think we can ever understand the thinking behind objects – someone might discover an old iPad and see nothing more than a fancy tablemat – so I recommend reading with an open mind.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
I read Station Eleven a few years ago, and really came away from that novel with a sense of just how much there still is to live for when you’ve lost everything. As a reader I feel like there are so many stories that hadn’t been told in that kind of setting – after the angst of the apocalypse, when you’re not necessarily trying to rebuild the world but live a good, happy life in the time you have left. So as a writer, I didn’t want to write a dystopia full of villains and evil governments (there’s enough of that in real life). I just wanted to write about humanity in isolation. The Quiet the End of the World was my response to this book.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is another post-apocalyptic novel set in England, that does something very, very different from what you expect when you hear those words. It’s unique, heart-breaking, and will definitely change your opinion on sci-fi as a genre.
Lirael by Garth Nix
A girl in a huge underground library explores its thousand year old depths with her magic dog sidekick. Every delicious trope rolled into one – and no romance! The Quiet at the End of the World took the libraries, the dogs and the tunnels underground – but left the magic. Sorry!
Children of Men by P.D. James
The original ‘what would happen if humans stopped having babies’ book. I watched the film (which is very different from the book, and highly recommended) over and over again when I was growing up.
My take on this question is almost the exact opposite of Children of Men – which says that, society will go to crap. In The Quiet at the End of the World, the opposite happens.