Environmental Crisis, Cli-fi, and the Fate of Humankind in Richard Jefferies’ After London and Robert Harris’ The Second Sleep


  • Adrian Tait Not affiliated (independent scholar)




modernity, cli-fi, risk, uncertainty, apocalypse, non-human


This article discusses two instances of ‘Anthropocene fiction’ (Trexler, 2015: 4) that engage with the environmental crisis that industrial modernity has generated: Richard Jefferies’ After London (1885), and Robert Harris’ The Second Sleep (2019), which both depict a future in which technological civilisation has collapsed, and the non-human world is resurgent. Like climate change fiction, or cli-fi, these novels are concerned with the elusive and unpredictable environmental risks that modern societies inadvertently create, and with finding ways to negotiate the representational challenge of those risks; unlike many instances of climate change fiction, however, these novels do not set out to warn their readers of what is to come, or lament the disaster they depict. They are instead concerned with the legacy of technological civilisation – a legacy of risk and uncertainty – and the question of whether that legacy can ever be escaped. Neither novel offers an answer; but nor do they foreclose its possibility.


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Inverted futuristic cityscape with a man in a rock