12 May 2015 | Blog

Andrew Raymond Drennan: Chronicling Dystopia

March saw the release of Andrew Raymond Drennan’s exhilarating new novel, The Limits Of The World, set in the authoritarian state of Kim Jong-Il’s North Korea. It tells the story of Han, a lonely guide to foreign tourists, who is rapidly ascending the party ranks and appears to be a model citizen. Unexpectedly, he is drawn into a secret underground book group by the enigmatic Mae, a woman he hopes to trust; but in a country ruled by fear and suspicion, where lovers and neighbors denounce each other to the Party, trust is in short supply. With the arrival of two western journalists trying to expose he brutal regime of Jong-Il’s state, Han comes to realise it is only a matter of time before the brutal realities of North Korean life catch up with him, and decides to embark upon the unthinkable…

To coincide with the release of the book, Andrew has written a series of blogs exclusively for the Waterstones website about his experiences and thoughts on writing the book. These have been spread over several weeks but we thought, as a handy primer, we would gather them together in one handy post for you (’cause we’re nice like that).

Are You Living In A Dystopian Novel?, the first of the pieces, discusses the strength of fascination that occurs with readers for dystopian fiction, and the reason why that is; namely, that dystopian fiction is a nightmarish realisation of our own word, and in being re-imagined so, reflects the nature of our existence back at us.

“The click happens in those little moments of recognition while reading of, ‘Yeah, the world is like that!’ And something like an understanding has passed between you and the author, which can be redemptive, and maybe even morally instructional. And there’s something about the click in dystopian fiction that’s a good deal stronger than regular fiction. Good old ‘regular’ fiction’s click is of a character that behaves in a believable way to you. But dystopian fiction’s click is showing you that entire systems of thought are wrong-headed, or will lead to oblivion (the Greek root of dystopia is ‘not-good place’).”

Click here to read Are You Living In A Dystopian Novel?

The second post, Would You Risk Death To Read A Book?, talks about The Limits Of The World directly. In it, Andrew writes about the research that went in to the novel, reading piles of secondary texts and meeting with dissidents who have fled North Korea. He also explores the idea of a “book lover”, the term used by many in the Western world to describe themselves, and asks how far you would really go for literature.

“I also had the testimony of NK escapees, tracked down through various back channels in Scotland’s Korean community, via the promise of favours and cash bribes. One, who I will call Escapee A, told me of her joy in reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. ‘April loves Frank so much. It had never occurred to me that you could love a person more than the Party,’ she told me. But I was confused. Escapee A had only basic English. How did she read and understand Revolutionary Road? I asked. ‘I read [her English made it rhyme with “steed” rather than “stead”] it in North Korea,’ she replied. I looked at the translator then back at Escapee A. ‘How?!’ I asked. ‘There [sic] plenty of foreign books there,’ she said. Then added, with a coquettish grin that would have charmed Cary Grant, ‘If you know where to look.’”

Click here to read Would You Risk Death To Read A Book?

Liked what you’ve read so far? Then why not give The Limits Of The World a go?

Limits Cover (Hi Res)

Click here to buy The Limits Of The World.

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