Brindle and Glass Publishing
Swarm follows Sandy as she and her partner Marvin and their friend Thomson struggle to survive on an island. The novel weaves from past to future to show Sandy’s story. On the island a mysterious girl is taking food from their already meagre stores. Marvin has no sympathy for the girl. They don’t have enough for themselves. Yet, Sandy dreams of being a mother. She desires the opportunity to do impossible mother and daughter things in a world that no longer exists.
The bees, the swarm of the title inhabit both parts of the novel and are a symbolic link to both what has gone wrong with the world and the possibility of hope. Swarm explores and all too likely scenario of economic collapse that leaves the largest part of the population hopeless.
Swarm reminded me of Margaret Attwood’s work in which everything carries weight. The story is built on the warp and woof of time and meaning. We feel Sandy’s desires and sometimes get impatient with her refusal to anchor her life in what is real rather than hopes that seem little more than a will-o-the-wisp. Then we see Marvin’s harshness and the way he’s been reduced by their subsistence living to focus only on what will help them survive and we hope that Sandy might succeed.
Between Sandy and Marvin, there is Thomson, a dying father figure, the inspiration to Marvin’s violence who rejected violence and yet refuses to reject either Marvin or Sandy. He is the one who forces a recognition of the value of death and it is no accident that he is also the bee keeper of the book.
Swarm is a challenging and occasionally a difficult read, but all the more valuable for that. It points to our present reluctance as a society to change. We are moving toward the brink, and Sandy’s story could be anyone’s story in a few years. The book is about not just the choices of a few characters, but the choices we’ve made as a species. I highly recommend it.