Since Tomorrow, by Morgan Nyberg is a post-apocalyptic drama apparently set in Vancouver at some point in the future. I only know this because of a note on the copyright page to the effect that, “some features of Greater Vancouver have been altered, removed or exaggerated.” While reading the book, I was never quite sure of the where and when.

In truth, that’s the way I felt for much of the novel – uncertain. The characters are compelling and I felt a great deal of compassion for Frost, Noor and William. They are a family struggling against implacable enemies bent on destroying them and all they’ve built since the unknown disaster which apparently struck Earth some twenty odd years before. Exactly what happened is left largely to reader imaginings. There are indications of a fuel shortage coupled with a plague whose dimensions and type are only vaguely referred to.

Somehow, the Earth this trio and their compatriots live in has been denuded of forests, snow, electricity and technology, though the remnants of the society we recognize as modern are all around them. Plastic bottles, truck flywheels and silver Christmas ornaments are traded with equal avidity for the ubiquitous “spuds,” which are apparently the only vegetable besides carrots now under routine cultivation. Except “skag,” an opiate derived, as it is today, from poppies. All the ills of our current society are writ large by the daily struggle for survival. Misogyny, drug addiction, betrayal and greed threaten the small community as it strives to prosper in a world that appears to be slowly dying. Langley, the villain of the piece and, not coincidentally, the skag farmer, wants everything; the farms, the women, the detritus of a broken world and the subjugation of every human within his reach.

Nyberg’s writing is spare and precise, almost painfully so, and yet there is a certain poetry to it. “People carved out personal space with curses and slashing elbows while still managing to advertise a shoelace, or a six-inch bolt complete with nut…” The reader can hear the desperate whisper of the Town voices calling, “lookit, lookit what I got.” The story is almost unbearably sad. And yet, I couldn’t stop reading.

There is something compelling in the tale that demands your attention, forces you to stick it out to the end. It isn’t the fascination of the train wreck. Perhaps it is very good writing coupled with the all too human desire that something, please mercy, something, must eventually go well for these people. Or, it may be the currently unpopular truth enfolded in these pages that some things are worth fighting, even dying for. Then again, maybe it is the thread of self-sacrifice and love that runs through the novel like a secret river that, all by itself, makes it worth the read.

Whatever the reason, I do recommend Since Tomorrow. But you may want to take an anti-depressant while reading it.

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