The Wall by John Lanchester

Title: The Wall
Author: John Lanchester
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Rating: 3/5

“They drum that into you: discipline trumps courage. In a fight, the people who win are the ones who do what they’re told. It’s not like it is in films. Don’t be brave, just do what you’re told.”

After the entire world was ripped apart by the Change, an island civilization creates the Wall which blocks the island from the treacherous coast line and the Others that lurk beyond it. A teenage boy, Joseph, has reached the age where he must do his duty to defend the Wall from the Others. If he fails, he risks being tossed over the wall, forced to join the Others in the rising ocean waters. As he grows closer to his fellow Defenders, Joseph decides that he will do everything he can to keep his new friends safe from the dangers that lie beyond the Wall.

One of the best aspects of this book is the tension. John Lanchester does a beautiful job setting the scene while Joseph is up on the cold, dark wall. The way he describes the thickness of the fog and the chilling spray of water, splashing against the Wall made me feel like I was there with him. Do you know that sensation you get when you are watching a scary movie and everything goes quiet with the camera focused on one angle as you wait for someone to jump out? That is exactly how I felt as John Lanchester described Joseph up on the Wall, trying to look through the fog to see what was on the other side.

“Home: it didn’t just seem as if home was a long way away, it actually felt as if the whole concept of home was strange, a thing you used to believe in, an ideology you’d once been passionate about but had now abandoned. “

It is difficult to describe what the main underlying message is surrounding The Wall without giving away spoilers. I will just say that this book came out in 2019, in the middle of Donald Trump’s presidency where he discussed building a wall to separate the United States and Mexico. This book touches on some of the negative side effects that would have come about if that wall had been built. The Wall also highlights the draft and what it would be like if everyone had to sign up once they reached a certain age, regardless of what gender they are. Lastly, the book emphasizes global warming and the impact of rising sea levels. Although The Wall is an extreme case of rising sea levels, it shows us what conflicts we may face in the future when land masses begin to shrink.

“There would be a new life, and we would be living a new life. It felt like too much to hope for, but not in a bad way, more the kind of thing you stop yourself thinking about for superstitious reasons, because if you let yourself imagine all the details, it’s less likely to happen.”

The book itself was interesting and had a lot of exciting scenes that kept me engaged, however, I still had some issues with it. My main fault with this book is that there could have been more character development. Although I liked the characters, none of them were really that special or unique. I felt like I really didn’t know that much about them and therefore didn’t care as much about what happened to them. The ending of the book also seemed rushed and inconclusive. Overall, the concept of the book is great, but it was poorly executed which is why I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. 

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