The Quiet at the End of the World

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“Lauren James is a genius at building tension.” SFX Magazine

“James is one to watch.“ Kirkus Reviews

How far would you go to save those you love?

Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mudlarking and looking for treasure – until a secret is uncovered that threatens their entire existence.

In the quiet at the end of the world, Lowrie and Shen must decide what they are willing to sacrifice to save the whole human race…

The Quiet at the End of the World will be published in the UK and Australia with Walker Books in March 2019.

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The Quiet at the End of the World is about Lowrie and Shen, the youngest people alive in a time after humans go infertile. They have grown up knowing that they are going to watch their species face extinction, and spend their time exploring the crumbling remains of civilisation, treasure-hunting for things their ancestors have left behind.

It’s about the time after the apocalypse, when there’s no hope, and nothing to do but wait and try to enjoy life at the end of the world. I love post-apocalyptic novels, but they are always very grimdark – depressing and tragic. I wanted to subvert that trope and write a kind of soft apocalypse, with an uplifting look at humanity and kindness in the small community that would result from a large population loss (it’s a very English kind of village, and book).

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.

I wanted to tell a story about how vulnerable life is, when the human race is an endangered species on the brink of extinction. And how easily the smallest thing could push it over the edge.

What do you do? If you know you’re the last of your kind, and nothing you do matters or will be remembered once you’re gone. How can you spend your days in harmony, when you know that every hour represents the thousands of years of human civilisation behind you? With those generations looking over your shoulder, are you ever truly yourself, or are you just the culmination of their decisions? How can you be an individual without looking ahead or behind you? Should you even try? Those are the questions that Lowrie and Shen are asking each other in The Quiet at the End of the World.

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In March 2016 I posted this quote from a book I was reading, which is not something I usually do, from Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. It just really spoke to me and I wanted to share it. Then I carried on with my life and forgot all about it.

But at the back of my mind, the quote and idea were clearly simmering away because three months later in June 2016, I was backpacking around Cambodia. I woke up in the middle of the night in a grotty youth hostel and scrambled for my travel notebook and wrote out a book idea. It was about the last boy and girl born after humanity stopped being able to conceive, who have to watch the human race go extinct.

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Commissioned art by stoffberg

 

Lowrie and Shen – character casting

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