Everything Must Go
A riveting and brilliantly original exploration of our fantasies of the end of the world, from Byron's 'Darkness' and Mary Shelley's The Last Man to Adam McKay's Don't Look Up and Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron, by the Baillie Gifford and Orwell prize-shortlisted author of The Ministry of Truth and co-host of the podcast 'Origin Story'.
For two millennia, Christians have looked forward to the end, haunted by the apocalyptic visions of the Biblical books of Daniel and Revelation. Few now believe that 'the end of the world is nigh' in a Biblical sense. But for two centuries or more, these dark fantasies have given way to secular stories of how the world, our planet, or our species (or all of the above) might come to an end.
Dorian Lynskey's fascinating new book explores the endings that we have read, listened to or watched over the last two dozen decades, whether they be by the death and destruction of a nuclear holocaust or collision with a meteor or comet, devastating epidemic or takeover by robots or computers. In literature, science fiction, film and even music, such fantasies of doom have run through our culture for two centuries, informed by scientific developments from the creation of the atomic bomb to the invention of the computer or the robot.
As the world emerges from a devastating epidemic and our newspapers are full of stories of fires, floods and hurricanes, as we focus on the implications of AI and the use of nuclear weapons seems more likely than it has for decades, these stories - and what they say about us - seem more relevant than ever. And yet every decade since 1816's 'year without a summer' has seen its own fears. We may expect the end, but so did our parents, grandparents and forebears.
The result is nothing less than a cultural history of the modern world, weaving together politics, history, science, high and popular culture in a book that is uniquely original, grippingly readable and deeply illuminating about both us and our times.