An epic, decades-spanning science-fiction mystery from the award-winning author of THE SEPARATION and THE PRESTIGE.
A petty thief who called himself John Smith was arrested in 1877 for theft through fraudulent behaviour. He was convicted and sent to prison.
In 1852, Adler and Adolf Beck’s father died on a glacier, and their lives separated. One became a respected climate scientist; the other a globally renowned opera singer, or so he claimed. They remained in touch to share details of the mysterious voices only they could hear.
In 2050, Charles Ramsey also has a twin. Greg is a climate journalist. Charles used to be a police profiler, but his redundancy leads him to being sent home with an experimental chip in his head. His brother urges him to explore a little-known aspect of their family history.
All these people are connected, impossibly, inexorably. All their lives will intersect.
And the climate of their world will keep on changing.
Expect Me Tomorrow skirts the line between fact and fantasy to create a dazzling piece of speculative fiction that’ll stay with you long after the final page, and for all the right reasons.
I could talk about the characters — the Victorian glaciologist, the serial criminal, or the futuristic former police profiler. Each are authentic, and the incident with the 19th century swindler, John Smith, is true. It really happened. Having real events woven into the fabric of this story adds a prescience to it that’s really intriguing. But if I talk any more about the characters or their situations, it’ll spoil the way they intersect, and that’s half the fun, especially if you enjoy time-bending stories in the same ilk as the movie Frequency.
I could talk about the sumptuous prose and the era-capturing nuances of the writing. The past and future are imagined with such stark believability, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more realistic and grounded depiction of the 1800s alongside 2050 anywhere else. But it’s a Christopher Priest book. Of course it’s going to be clever and gripping and immersive. What else would you expect from the author of The Prestige?
So instead of dwelling on character, setting, or style, I’m going to focus on the crux on which this whole book hangs — hope. Hopeful science fiction is a treasure to be savoured. And this is one of those treasures.
Underneath the central mystery of the story (which crosses centuries and connects these characters), there’s an underlying reminder that hope remains, even when challenges seem insurmountable. Even if that challenge is climate change.
The issue of climate change is addressed here without ever feeling preachy, or reading like a scientific textbook — it’s skilfully included in a way that doesn’t detract from the story or the intrigue. But it’s there. In the background. Always lurking. And that’s because the book isn’t content to just give us a superficial mystery — it goes deeper with every page, and works on multiple levels. It’s artful, subtle, and while it might not be flashy, it’s got substance galore.
Actually, to say this book works on multiple levels is a bit of an understatement. Take the title, for example. The line ‘expect me tomorrow’ is uttered by every major player. Sometimes it refers to the criminal activity of John Smith. Sometimes it’s Dolf writing to his twin brother, Adler, in the hopes of seeing him. Sometimes it’s Chad making a promise to the past. But really, it’s the perfect message to depict the 2050s as they’re presented here — a future riddled by the devastating effects of a changed climate. Expect Me Tomorrow carries a warning of what our future holds. And yet, there’s something hopeful about the story which twists that threat into a comforting affirmation — that even in a condemned world, hope does not die.
Part of what makes this book hit home so well is the cleverness of how it’s structured. Each character is written in a different style. One is written in third-person-omniscient, one in third-person-limited, and one in first-person. This doesn’t feel confusing, and it doesn’t jar. Instead, it adds a sense of completeness to the narrative. The switches between time periods, characters, and style all flow and match seamlessly. It’s as if the story aims to look at every side of the bigger picture, to take every approach to the central world-changing issue at stake here, and this pays off in a big way because instead of feeling overwhelmed or unbalanced, every layer of the story lands. There’s so much to admire about it. Priest is a master at work, surpassing and subverting our expectations while leaving us stimulated and enchanted in equal measure.
On the cover of Expect Me Tomorrow is a glacier, and it’s perfect because the book is a lot like a glacier. It’s constantly shifting, powerfully balanced, and dangerously real. But it’s beautiful to behold, and when studied, it reveals a lot about who we are, where we are, but more importantly, where we’re going. The places this book will take you are well worth travelling. They might seem scary at first, but they’ll leave you with a sense of urgency that doesn’t rob you of your hope — rather, it adds to it. All these characters can give to one another is hope, but that’s all they need. And maybe, just maybe, hope is enough.
Published by Gollancz