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Above the Ether: A Novel (Hardcover)
"Chillingly recognizable . . . In twenty years—or less—people will have a hard time believing that this is a work of the imagination. That's how convincingly Barnes plays out the signs and omens of our times." —Tim Johnston, New York Times–bestselling author
Here is a mesmerizing novel of unfolding dystopia amid the effects of climate change in a world very like our own, for readers of Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven and Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood.
In this prequel to Eric Barnes's acclaimed cli-fi novel The City Where We Once Lived, six sets of characters move through a landscape and a country just beginning to show the signs of cataclysmic change.
A father and his young children fleeing a tsunami after a massive earthquake in the Gulf. A woman and her husband punishing themselves without relent for the loss of both their sons to addiction, while wildfires slowly burn closer to their family home. A brilliant investor, assessing opportunity in the risk to crops, homes, cities, industries, and infrastructure, working in the silent comfort of her office sixty floors up in the scorching air. A doctor and his wife stuck in a refugee camp for immigrants somewhere in a southern desert. Two young men working the rides for a roadside carnival, one escaping a brutal past, the other a racist present. The manager of a chain of nondescript fast-food restaurants in a city ravaged by the relentless wind.
While every night the news alternates images of tsunami destruction with the baseball scores, the characters converge on a city where the forces of change have already broken—a city half abandoned, with one part left to be scavenged as the levee system protecting it slowly fails—until, in their vehicles on the highway that runs through it, they witness the approach of what looks to be just one more violent storm.
About the Author
Eric Barnes is the author of two previous novels, Shimmer and Something Pretty, Something Beautiful. He has published more than forty short stories in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, The Literary Review, Best American Mystery Stories, and other publications. By day, he is publisher of newspapers in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga that cover business, politics, the arts, and more. On Fridays, he hosts a news talk show on his local PBS station. In the past, he was a reporter and editor in Connecticut and New York. Years ago he drove a forklift in Tacoma, Washington, and then Kenai, Alaska, worked construction on Puget Sound, and, many years ago, he graduated from the MFA writing program at Columbia University. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.
"A first-rate apocalyptic page-turner . . . Barnes’s spare and chilling prose flows from one horrific scene to another without, surprisingly, alienating his readers, perhaps because the heart of his narrative ultimately reveals an abiding faith in the power of human compassion.”—Booklist
“A multilayered and deftly crafted dystopian novel that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Science Fiction collections. . . . All too plausible.”—Midwest Book Review
"Chillingly recognizable . . . In twenty years—or less—people will have a hard time believing that this is a work of the imagination. That's how convincingly Barnes plays out the signs and omens of our times." —Tim Johnston, New York Times–bestselling author of The Current
“Above the Ether depicts a dystopia more terrifying because of its proximity to our own, yet this novel is also saturated by hope. In this world, people can rise above their pasts, and humanity can endure change and hardship. Barnes is also just a terrific writer of both story and sentence."—Elise Blackwell, author of The Lower Quarter and Hunger
"There is poetry on these pages as well as great understanding of humanity and compassion for the human condition."—Tonstant Weader Reviews
"In this dark vision of the near future, the apocalypse does not entail an angry God bent on holy punishment. Greed and blindness alone can push our species to end times."—Chapter 16
Praise for The City Where We Once Lived
“Barnes has constructed an intricate apocalyptic world that frighteningly mirrors present-day reality.”—Shelf Awareness, starred review
“In bare-bones prose that is subtly affecting, the novel is a haunting portrait of why people form bonds and the many ways those bonds can be torn apart. . . . A story of adaption and the power of the human spirit.”—Foreword
"Barnes’s violent, haunted, and creepy novel about failing societies will attract readers of dark, post-apocalyptic fiction."—Library Journal
“Exceptional . . . From the first pages all the way to the last, I was drawn in. I have read some dystopian future books in the past, but The City Where We Once Lived stands out among them."—Seattle Book Review
“An all too realistic novel that could easily be ripped from future newspaper headlines, The City Where We Once Lived is a compelling read from first page to last and reveals author Eric Barnes to have a genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling. . . . Very highly recommended.”—Midwest Book Review
"Barnes's new novel is a rare and truly original work: a hard-edged fable, tender and unflinching, in which a man's descent and renewal is mirrored by his city. An eerie, beautifully written, and profoundly humane book."—Emily St. John Mandel, author of National Book Award finalist Station Eleven
"Written in a gorgeously spare language that perfectly reflects the dystopic future this novel depicts, The City Where We Once Lived kept me enthralled throughout. At its core is a deep and admirable compassion for humanity."—Chris Offutt, author of Country Dark
"A stunningly written tale of loss and grief. The stark beauty of Barnes's prose will pull you into a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is at once utterly foreign and hauntingly familiar. The City Where We Once Lived is a riveting journey through devastation, but one that delivers a world where seeds of hope emerge in the unlikeliest of places. It is a story of our time, but also timeless. It is a story of one man, but a story that speaks to each of us and for all of us. It is a story that will stay with you long after you've turned the last page." –Lindsay Moran, national bestselling author of Blowing My Cover
“An intensely envisioned work of dystopian realism and American desolation, beautifully drawn from the slow-motion apocalypse of everyday life.”—Christopher Brown, author of Tropic of Kansas
“Eric Barnes's The City Where We Once Lived is a most original novel, surprising and fierce—a dazzling puzzle of grief and utopia, dystopia and hope.”—Minna Zallman Proctor, author of Landslide
"Spare and elegant, this novel brings into breathtaking relief a frighteningly recognizable future. Eric Barnes shows us what it means to inhabit—a building, a city, a life. And also what it means to be inhabited—by memories, by ghosts, and maybe, just maybe, by hope." —Elise Blackwell, author of The Lower Quarter and Hunger
"A controlled burn of a book, full of horror and sadness and, once the fire dies down, the beauty of new growth. In the tradition of J. G. Ballard and Margaret Atwood, Eric Barnes gives us a dying neighborhood of outcasts who save the world that has cast them out. Just the book we need in these dystopian times."—John Feffer, author of Splinterlands
“With deft prose and a discerning voice, The City Where We Once Lived is a taut examination of the archetypes and rituals that form the landscape of community.”—Courtney Miller Santo, author of Three Story House and The Roots of the Olive Tree
"This novel stuck with me. The voice is appealingly quiet, the atmosphere dreamlike, but the premise of poisoned ground, weather gone haywire, and a government that has thrown up its hands, is frighteningly real. The most remarkable thing is that even after hope is gone, kindness survives."—James Whorton, author of Approximately Heaven and Angela Sloan
“Barnes has constructed an intricate apocalyptic world that frighteningly mirrors present-day reality. Through stark yet intimate prose, Barnes explores themes of separatism and displacement and how the lenses we look through are often distorted by lack of connection and empathy. He offers a cautionary tale about a world that feels a hair's-breadth away.”—Malcolm Avenue Review
“Taut with timely themes of climate change, waning empathy and lack of community, the story hits scarily close to home.”—Pop Culture Nerd
“A highly recommended look at a dying city that is part dystopian and part premonition.”—She Treads Softly