The Wall by John Lanchester

Surrounding the island of Great Britain, The Wall was constructed after The Change, when the oceans rose and the earth was unable to continue to sustain the global population. The Others can attack at any moment; their desire to enter the a semi-working civilization of Britain stokes relentless courage. But the Defenders are there to man the wall in 12-hour shifts. Newly conscripted into his 2-year appointment, Kavanagh must learn the routine quickly.

There is talk all over the news about walls, both literal and figurative. Treaties and alliances formed and broken. Strong-willed politicians who drum up support based on fear of the others. And individuals who are sent into the fray in the midst of their debating conscious. Lanchester pushes the debates forward, but in a subtle way. He focuses on that soldier, that individual, who is in turns apathetic, angry, and contemplative.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because it is such a short book. But you can expect the training of the Defenders, which serves as an introduction to the Wall and its history and politics. And yes, you can expect an attack. Now is the time to mention a key rule in the defense of the country: if an attack occurs and the Others are successful in entering the country, those Defenders who are responsible will be pushed out to sea…

Lanchester’s story is weighing on me hours after finishing. Ultimately, I think this will be a polarizing read. There are many things I liked about it. The premise, the ending, several of the characters. But I wanted a little more out of the main character. I wanted him to have some sort of passion, either for or against the Wall. He more connected with his mates, and was focused on finishing his tenure of service than with anything bigger than himself for most of the book, but there is a change, a realization of sorts. There are some excellent twists and an ending that was something I didn’t expect, but loved.

John Lanchester can be found speaking about his new book in a book trailer here.

4 out of 5 stars

Releases on March 5th

Thank you to NetGalley, W.W. Norton, and John Lanchester for an advanced copy for review.

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