It’s the year 2043, and deadly swarms of bioengineered flies have devastated the human population over the past 18 years. Even if a person’s flesh isn’t completely consumed by the swarms, infections can remain dormant for years. Survivors call it the Fly Flu.
Young people, like 18-year-old Nico and 12-year-old Kit, don’t remember a time before the Fly Flu. As the novel opens, they don’t know each other yet, but they have quite a bit in common. They’ve both grown up in small families in New England, and they’re both afraid that their parents are on the verge of succumbing to latent infections. Kit’s beloved mother, Dakota, has been acting increasingly tired and confused. Nico’s mother has already died, and she fears her father may be close behind. Circumstances conspire to spur Nico and Kit to leave the homes they’ve always known—and as they pursue their destinies, to find one another.
David Arnold’s The Electric Kingdom is a mind-blowing blend of post-apocalyptic fantasy, science fiction and time-travel saga. In an author’s note, Arnold writes, “I’ve spent most of my writing career exploring the metaphorical ways in which art and story can save us, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I explored their literal saving graces as well.” Indeed, stories form the backbone of Arnold’s engrossing novel, whether they are read in familiar books or written in new chronicles, told around campfires or conveyed in works of visual art. Alternating between the perspectives of Kit, Nico and the enigmatic “Deliverer,” whose identity remains unknown until close to the novel’s end, The Electric Kingdom incorporates themes of journeys and the unknown, which Arnold has explored in earlier books.
The Electric Kingdom satisfyingly blends elements of several genres, making it a perfect choice for readers who don’t gravitate toward genre fiction but enjoy novels that explore philosophical questions, such as science versus religion, or tales of survival in dangerous circumstances. It’s also a deeply emotional story. Powerful scenes capture devastating sadness and loss, while offering a tentative glimpse of hope even when it seems fruitless. It’s the kind of novel worth re-reading—and readers will find something new to appreciate about it with each return.