THE NEW WILDERNESS

Diane Cook

(Oneworld, £8.99)

In a polluted future, Bea takes part in an experiment to save her daughter Agnes from the toxicity of the City. She is one of 20 volunteers selected to go to a nature reserve and become nomadic hunter-gatherers to see if humans can live in nature without destroying it. But Bea isn’t cut out for that way of life, and packs it in to return to the City, leaving Agnes behind. The complicated dynamic between mother and daughter is at the heart of the book, as Agnes grows up and considers becoming a mother herself. The appearance of this novel on the Booker longlist was taken as a sign that climate fiction might be going mainstream, and the world-building around the Bea-Agnes relationship is fascinating and frequently uncomfortable, from the painful evolution of a new society to Cook’s unsentimental take on the wilderness and the alien quality of a landscape altered by climate change.

HeraldScotland:

SOVEREIGN CAUSE

Andrew Scott

(Twa Corbies, £8.99)

The fourth of Scott’s Willie Morton novels finds the Edinburgh-based journalist investigating the 1985 death of civil servant Matthew McConnacher, who died 19 days after publishing a report showing Scotland’s economy to be the most stable in the UK. The 30-year period has elapsed, but the report hasn’t been declassified. Morton’s efforts to find out why are noticed by the all-powerful NSS, the top level of the security services, and the consequences are soon felt by Morton and his Catalan intern Ysabet. Scott clearly isn’t worried that letting his own political sympathies creep into the text will get in the way of a gripping story. He has latched on to the aspects of 21st-century Scotland that make it a fertile setting for a paranoid conspiracy thriller and cleverly constructed a plot that triggers associations with both the McCrone Report and Willie McCrae’s mysterious death, resonances that make it feel credibly tense.

HeraldScotland:

HASHTAG GOOD GUY WITH A GUN

Jeff Chon

(Sagging Meniscus, £15.99)

Disgraced teacher Scott Bonneville is hailed as a hero when he prevents a mass shooting in a pizza parlour by shooting the would-be killer. What people don’t know is that Bonneville had gone there, armed, with an agenda of his own, fired up by QAnon-style conspiracy theories. Set around the election of Donald Trump in 2016, Chon’s novel returns to the pizza parlour shooting several times to examine the characters who were in the vicinity, like Blake, who reinvented himself as an alpha male after finding his mother having sex with his teacher, Bonneville. Chon takes us into the dark heart of toxic masculinity, fake news, radicalisation and the culture that social media has shaped from them. Thoughtful, but fast-moving and laced with biting wit, it’s an offbeat satire on the cultish, fragmented realities that have come to define the USA, particularly the young men swept up by incel culture.