Driftwood by Marie Brennan
Taychon Publications, pb, £12.19
Reviewed by Mikaela Silk
Marie Brennan’s ‘Driftwood’ is set during an unofficial memorial service for the elusive character ‘Last’, in which a wide assortment of people step forward to tell their stories of him. No one knows if Last is really dead or if it’s all rumour, but the memorial seems to be a good way for people to honour their memories of him and to thank him for the differences he has made to their lives. I’ll admit I was unsure about this book when I first started reading, but it drew me in bit by bit and I was enthralled by the time I finished reading.
With its unique setting, ‘Driftwood’ offers a refreshingly different take on the apocalypse. There are no zombies, no nuclear or natural disasters, no tales of people resorting to looting or cannibalism. Instead, it focuses on the deeper and more personal aspects of an apocalypse. The question of what people will do when their world and their culture and their civilisation is disappearing, slowly slipping away to an inevitable doom, is endlessly fascinating. The most interesting feature of this is the variety which Brennan’s setting allows; from those who try to deny the inevitability, such as the King of the Miqerni, to those like Noirin who simply want to ease the loss and for the memories of her people to last as long as possible.
Last’s influence is greatly explored in relation to these decisions and I think it is his moral and near-mythical character that gives the novel its best quality. He gives the novel an overall positive focus which moves away from the typically dark theme of apocalyptic fiction. This is most apparent in the final chapter: a shorter one by the rest of the novel’s standards and strangely without context compared to the many stories of Last. Although I find myself questioning if there is a hidden meaning that I’ve missed, my main thoughts on this final chapter are that it echoes and reinforces the optimistic tone of the novel and serves to leave the reader with a feeling of satisfaction and contentment.
My favourite thing about this novel is the huge range of people and cultures which Brennan brings to life and explores. I can’t wait to find out what else she has in store for us. Whilst I am craving more of Last’s stories and adventure, I would be equally captivated by more stories of the unique characters from their unique worlds and their uniquely personal experiences in the edges and the shreds of driftwood.