In a sea of dystopian, post-apocalyptic SF and speculative fiction, Seoul Survivors bucks the trend by being a pre-apocalyptic novel. SS focuses on the different reactions people have to the news that a massive meteor, dubbed Lucifer’s Hammer, is going to hit Earth imminently.
We follow a gaggle of morally ambiguous characters, primarily based in Seoul but with some brief excursions into Beijing and rural North Korea. Their backstories are left intentionally hazy; just as they lie to each other about their intentions, they also seem to lie and keep secrets from themselves. In a world whose time is short, people seem more reluctant than ever to reveal the truth to themselves; better to coast by on a sea of idealism, convincing ourselves of having lived a worthwhile life before everything is sucked away.
But few characters, in this bleak and dark imagining of a future that’s so near you can almost touch it, emerge with a great deal of credit. The geneticist Kim Da Mi is attempting to ensure humanity’s survival after the meteor using a blend of surrogatism, genetics and robotics that is morally repugnant, yet challenges the reader to consider what price is worth paying to elevate humanity to new levels of understanding, or science. Foyle leaves this question tantalisingly unanswered, but it personally left me with a sour taste.
Damian, the drugs mule who simply wants to get of Korean dodge is the one character – the only Brit, mind – who injects a bit of good old fashioned British scepticism into the mix. Everyone else seems happy to be swept along by their own fallacies, rage and selfishness, and
It’s very raunchy, and sex plays an important part of the novel. Some of the sex is erotic, some is depraved, and some is very violent. With the end of the world imminent, I wonder if this is hypersexualisation is Foyle’s way of hinting at the loosening of sexual morals and, in the fahsion of Sodom and Gomorrah, bring humanity low through excess.
Contrasting with the highly sexually charged Sydney, the depraved and quite deliciously revolting Johnny Sandman, and the womanising Jae Ho, Kim Da Mi is a kind of androgyne, desexualised and playing the role of both tyrannical father and mother nature to her new surrogate children. It’s telling that the brave new world envisioned by Da Mi is in her own image, desexualised and conformist.
Korea makes for an interesting setting, and draws of much of Foyle’s own experiences there, and paints a country that at times seems to struggle with reconciling its own ancient Confucian culture with increasing amounts of Western consumerism and individualism. It’s a brisk, energetic read and leaves the reader with many important and, at times, depressing questions, but which nonetheless seem increasingly relevant.