Two Tribes – Chris Beckett

“Harry Roberts describes a shallow valley, like an indentation in a quilt, with green pastures and tress on either side.”

When a 23rd century historian discovers journals from two people writing about each other and the same events in 2016, she’s inspired to try to tell their story, pieced together from writings and an abundance of social media records. Harry is an architect and ‘remainer’, Michelle is a hairdresser and pro-Brexit. Can two people from such different ‘tribes’ ever get along? And what of the alienness of life before the Warring Factions conflict, global warming, and all the other things that have changed life in our future?

To be honest, I didn’t really like this book. And yet, I didn’t hate it enough to stop reading. It was, despite the subject matter, easy to read and well enough written, with the exception of some very false-sounding, clunky dialogue near the beginning (not quite “Hey sis, you know our deceased parents who…” kind of level, but shades of it).

The sci-fi framing tale felt like a bit of a bait-and-switch for what turned out to be a particularly long diatribe about Brexit. Sorry, but yawn. Harry is dangerously close to a ‘Gary Stu’, having all of these revelations about how he must examine his default view, that there are two sides, it’s not pro-this and anti-that, middle versus working class, education versus prejudice, blah blah, aren’t I so reasonable and the only person actually thinking! This is balanced by making him somewhat of a pathetic character, and the main story is some tortured love affair that is probably meant to be very Romeo and Juliet, or at least West Side Story.

Meanwhile we get regular little glimpses into the future ‘now’ of the narrator, and discover that as well as obsessing over these two opposite characters, she’s decided to add a layer of fiction with groups of leavers and remainers who may or may not develop into those ‘Warring Factions’ that broke the country. Anything interesting in how things pan out, however, is covered in a few lines of exposition at best.

The last line almost makes it all have a point, albeit rather suddenly, but to be honest it just wasn’t that interesting getting there. I’m surprised it wasn’t more of a slog to read, although it was irritating rather a lot of the time. I’m sure the author was aiming for being impartial, and he does have a few good observations, and yet there are still not-quite-subtle prejudices in the viewpoints, some of which I’m not entirely sure weren’t slightly offensive to at least one group, if not all.

So… can’t recommend. There are interesting moments of how a future society might view our obsession with the likes of social media, or our unthinking privileges, but overall it’s a thinly dressed up attempt at expounding some ‘clever’ viewpoints, shoved into the mouths of some fairly unlikable characters who in the end I just really wished would shut up.

NetGalley eARC: 288 pages / 33 chapters
First published: 2nd July 2020
Series: none
Read from 25th-29th June 2020

My rating: 4/10

3 thoughts on “Two Tribes – Chris Beckett

  1. Ugh, too bad. I think I’ve read a couple books by the author and enjoyed them, but this is one I’ll stay far away from, especially given the obvious agenda. I read spec fic to escape these days, not to read some author’s opinions on a political issue masked as sci-fi.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! I’m told this is very unlike his usual style, so I might still try the Eden series. But you’ve phrased it perfectly: “agenda … masked as sci-fi”. Ty! 🙂


  2. Oh dear this doesn’t sound good at all. I hate sanctimonious moralising in fiction and it sounds really disappointing that the sci fi was just a bait and switch! (I thought initially the concept sounded good… until you pointed that out!) Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

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