I can't remember when I last read a full-length novel at a single sitting. But then it's been a long time since I've been as blown away by a book as I've been blown away by "A Song of Winter" by Andrew James Greig: I got hooked very quickly and there then seemed no alternative to reading it right through to the final page of the epilogue. Andrew James Greig's latest book deserves to become a classic, perhaps alongside the two books it most reminds me of: John Wyndham's "The Day of the Triffids" and H.G.Wells' "The War of the Worlds". It is an absolutely superb piece of writing that takes the reader in very short order from a modern Edinburgh that many will recognise to an unimaginable near future in which climate catastrophe threatens each and every one of us. Only it's not unimaginable: the author has not only imagined it, he's made it chillingly real in a way that will live on in my memory long after other books I've yet to read have been forgotten. "A Song of Winter" is an outstanding novel that deserves to be widely read.
The publisher's blurb sets the scene: "Edinburgh is basking in an unnaturally warm winter until the snow starts falling. When a student disappears, along with his climate research, and the national government close down all communications, Professor Finlay Hamilton realises there is a link between his own research into dark matter and the freak weather. Suddenly he is in a desperate race to save his wife, Jess, and their young family from a catastrophic event. His only help is a man from Jess's past, a past he never knew existed. Under the relentless snowfall, only the strong will survive – and Jess must be strong enough to keep her family safe."
Accepting the scientific mechanism that underpins the climate catastrophe takes some active suspension of disbelief. But once you've bought in to the author's take on dark matter, it has a pleasing internal consistency and an engaging plausibility about it. This isn't a criticism: you didn't need to believe in walking carnivorous plants or Martians in tripods to enjoy "The Day of the Triffids" or "The War of the Worlds". In many ways it's the interplay of the evolving scientific understanding of what's happening with its impact on places that many readers will know well that brings this book so vividly to life. Add in some all-too-believable elements involving individuals being pursued by the deep state and the broken relationship between Westminster and Holyrood governments and you end up with a superbly rounded plot.
Endings are important. They're what the reader takes away with them as they close the book for the final time. I found myself running out of pages and still completely in the dark about how the author could possibly bring his story to a satisfactory conclusion. I'll not spoil anything for anyone here. Suffice it to say that the book's ending not only lives up to the rest of the novel, it is in large measure why I believe "A Song of Winter" could and should become a modern classic.