The Book of Air by Joe Treasure

Monday 21 August 2017

Retreating from an airborne virus with a uniquely unsettling symptom, property developer Jason escapes London for his country estate, where he is forced to negotiate a new way of living with an assortment of fellow survivors.

Far in the future, an isolated community of descendants continue to farm this same estate. Among their most treasured possessions are a few books, including a copy of Jane Eyre, from which they have constructed their hierarchies, rituals and beliefs. When 15-year-old Agnes begins to record the events of her life, she has no idea what consequences will follow. Locked away for her transgressions, she escapes to the urban ruins and a kind of freedom, but must decide where her future lies.

These two stories interweave, illuminating each other in unexpected ways and offering long vistas of loss, regeneration and wonder.

The Book of Air is a story of survival, the shaping of memory and the enduring impulse to find meaning in a turbulent world.

The Book of Air is an interesting, character driven post-apocalyptic story. There are no zombies, nor any real action so to speak, just the struggles of two different societies as they react to their respective changes.

First, we have the modern day, which - in this - is actually the past. We follow Jason as he battles a mysterious virus, acts as guardian to his nephew, and comes to terms with the fact that life as he knew it is no more. There are other characters, such as Maud, Abigal, Alexksy, and Django, in Jason's chapters, but none are quite so central nor focused on as he is. Treasure takes us deep into his mind and his past to set the foundations for the second part of the story.

Agnes' half of the book is very much based off Jason's, but you don't necessarily know that until key pieces of information are dropped. And when they are - trust me - the cogs inside your head will start turning and you'll get a true appreciation for the intricacies of how the two worlds combine.

As characters, Agnes and Jason feel like individuals and it's easy to tell their voices apart. Agnes is smart, inquisitive, and only a little naive. Jason is wrapped up in the past, grieving, and - at times - even angry and bitter. Supporting characters aren't quite as developed, but you can still tell The Reader from Aleksy and Sarah from Deidre. In the scheme of things, though, they really aren't as central to the story as Jason and Agnes.

The story itself, however, is where things fell a little flat for me. I still enjoyed the book and it was unlike anything else I've read - what is an entirely new world, drawing all they know from a copy of Jane Eyre? I've certainly never come across that before - it was severely lacking in action and anything fast paced. Not a problem if you enjoy a good meander through the details of every day life and getting to know your narrators, but I personally enjoy a good fight sequence or five in my books.

Nevertheless, The Book of Air isn't a slow read due to the fact that it's under three hundred pages and is written in a compelling style. Even if you do long for action you'll want to keep reading as there's something about the main characters that continues to draw you in, and there are times when the drama and mystery is amped up.

If you're on the hunt for a read set in the near future but don't want zombies, dystopian dictatorial regimes, or teens fighting to the death, give The Book of Air a go.

Joe Treasure and his work can be found at...
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Joe Treasure currently lives in South West London with his wife Leni Wildflower. As an English teacher in Wales, he ran an innovative drama programme, before following Leni across the pond to Los Angeles, an experience that inspired his critically acclaimed debut novel The Male Gaze (published by Picador). His second novel Besotted (also published by Picador) also met with rave reviews.


  1. I definitely agree that this was a very interesting read! I liked how different it was to most post-apocalyptic novels, it was great to change it up a bit.

    1. I liked that, too. Has definitely opened my eyes to more than just zombies! (Although I do still love a good zombie :P)


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