Wednesday 4th May 2022
A great new addition in the cli-fi subgenre, comes from one of my favourite authors, Wilbur Smith, and his co-author, Chris Wakling. Smith, who passed away at the age of 88 in November 2021, was working with a number of co-authors to get his stories out to his eager fans more quickly.
Wakling took up the mantle of breaking Smith into the children’s adventure book market, with stories for readers aged 10 and over. So far, Wakling has written three books in the Jack Courtney series, which include Cloudburst, Thunderbolt, and the new novel in focus, Shockwave. The Courtney family name will be familiar to fans of Smith. The Courtney series of books (named in honour of Smith’s grandfather), is one of the longest running series within the publishing world.
Shockwave takes readers north to the Arctic, traversing both Finland and Norway. The protagonist Jack Courtney, along with his friends Amelia and Xander, convince Jack’s mum and her friend Jonny Armfield, to let the three children travel to the Arctic to produce an environmental film about climate change.
Johnny Armfield is providing his services to a new organisation who claim to want to expand into renewable energy and say they will be exploring the region for potential windfarm and nuclear energy opportunities. It’s this new organisation who offer to sponsor the film. However, nothing is as it initially seems. The company has a strong interest in gas fields, and there is a deadly plan afoot which the children must work to uncover. Should they fail, their lives and that of the mysterious Johnny Armfield will be at stake. But before the children even get to that stage, they must pass a series of challenges that Armfield has created for them on the quiet. These involve building igloos, ice fishing, driving snowmobiles and dog sleds, as well as an unplanned encounter with wolves.
The climate crisis is interwoven into the fabric of the book. First there is Jack’s mum, who we are told in all three books is environmentally minded and constantly campaigning on the issue. It’s through her, that all three eco-adventures have come about. In Shockwave, we learn about the melting Arctic icepack, as well as the shift into renewable energy. Importantly, readers are exposed to the strong pushback of fossil fuel interests, who use various tactics, including greenwashing to pretend that they care and are switching to greener energy, while continuing to make enormous profits from fossil fuels.
In this sense, climate change is often mentioned and is a key part of the plot of this new cli-fi children’s novel. It differs slightly in that respect from the first two books in the series, which fell into the eco-fiction category. Yet all three make for fast-paced and engaging adventure novels.
It’s also fantastic to see Wilbur Smith, another household author name, on the front cover of cli-fi books, particularly cli-fi books which aren’t dystopian in nature. In that sense, I’d add both Shockwave and The Last Bear, into the new wave of cli-fi books which I’ve been calling for in both The Bookseller and Mongabay.
I look forward to the future books in the Jack Courtney series, and hope to see other mainstream authors publish into this new wave of cli-fi novels. Ultimately, it’s books like these that could just change the world.
My new cli-fi children’s picture book is Nanook and the Melting Arctic. Nanook is a caring polar bear who lives in the Arctic. But when his igloo starts melting, Nanook must find a way to save his friends and his home. He knows that the people who can help are also those who’ve caused the problem and he must find a way to convince leaders to act on the climate crisis. You can purchase Nanook from Amazon’s global stores including Amazon UK and Amazon US.