I've always been a fan of speculative fiction that plays it pretty close to home, you know, the kind of story where the author changes one significant thing about our world, moves the entire universe seven feet to the left and sees what happens. In fact, I like that kind of thing so much that I wrote four books of my own based on the unlikely situation of there being a killer virus sweeping across the world. Unfortunately, real life caught up with me, and moved this from the Fiction Section to the Documentary area of the bookshop.
This near-reality focus is why I like the books of Eve Smith so much. Her 2020 book The Waiting Rooms deserved to win all the prizes, and maybe have a few extra prizes invented especially for it too. The Waiting Rooms' one significant difference was an absolute shortage of antibiotics, to which the Government responded by restricting the access of people over 70 to the drugs. Obviously, this was a great premise for a dystopian view of the future, and Eve carried it off brilliantly.
For her new novel, Off Target, Eve is looking at the ethical issues surrounding IVF and genetic manipulation. For anyone with children, this is a challenging read as we think about what we would have done if we'd had that opportunity. Would we have corrected for 'small defects?' What is a defect anyway? For everything that we consider to be a weakness, is there a corresponding strength? And what happens if genetic modifications are allowed to run out of control?
I asked Eve why she is so drawn to these kind of scenarios. She said:
"For me, writing or reading about dangers and threats rooted in the real world, that may actually happen at some point in the future, makes the novels more terrifying. That's why I love speculative fiction. You get to make up new worlds but still use all the tools of a classic thriller.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy fantasy and sci-fi too, but I want people to be disturbed by the ideas in my books long after they read the last page.
Because these situations might just happen and we should be frightened..."