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Alexandria Reviews

Alexandria by Paul Kingsnorth


Paul Kingsnorth

3.25 out of 5

7 reviews

Imprint: Faber & Faber
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication date: 18 Feb 2021
ISBN: 9780571322107

'Like Robert Macfarlane re-written by Cormac McCarthy.' Telegraph 'Beckett doing Beowulf.' London Review of Books One thousand years from now, the sole inhabitants of a small island - a group no larger than an extended family - are living in a post-civilised world.

4 stars out of 5
James McConnachie
2 May 2021

"A wildly colourful Victorian adventurer is rescued from history’s cutting-room floor"

This is a jewel of a book. It rescues Masson from history’s cutting-room floor and brings him richly, ripely to life. It also proves that we do not have to throw out great stories along with the jingoistic, schoolbook version of history. Because here is a European orientalist of the best type. Here, too, is eyewitness, contemporary testimony from someone who saw straight through the colonial project to its chilly heart. Brave, dedicated, endlessly curious, Masson deserves his rediscovery.


4 stars out of 5
Stuart Kelly
5 Mar 2021

"Kingsnorth has written a significant and intriguing trilogy"

As for Buckmaster, this troubled me, but my brain-nag eventually remembered Buckminster Fuller, the architect, ecologist, enthusiast for synergetics and “Spaceship Earth” and Mensa President. He also changed the orthography of his name; he also had a vision that “You do not belong to you. You belong to the Universe. Your significance will remain forever obscure to you.” He at least had hope. Kingsnorth has written a significant and intriguing trilogy, but one I find hard to admire.

4 stars out of 5
28 Feb 2021

"(a) highly inventine trilogy"

The final chapters of Alexandria progress with an immense eschatological momentum that draws together both machine and man. In this highly inventive trilogy, spanning 2,000 years, Paul Kingsnorth traces a line between the past and future of humanity, the tremendous upheaval we have experienced, and that which may yet be to come.

3 stars out of 5
Nina Allan
25 Feb 2021

"a passionately argued, often furious diatribe against the human irresponsibility that has helped to trigger the crisis of our present moment"

In his summoning of our era’s most urgent themes – environmental collapse, the rise of artificial intelligence, the destructive conflict between the individual and the collective – Kingsnorth is clearly striving for contemporary relevance. Yet the way these themes are presented seems disappointingly old-fashioned. The first third of the novel has a quality of mystery that draws the reader under its spell; sadly, Kingsnorth is not content to let his mysteries speak for themselves. The bulk of the book is taken up with long and preachy infodumps of the kind familiar from the more heavy-handed variety of 1950s science fiction novel. 

3 stars out of 5
20 Feb 2021

"imaginatively conceived and ecologically switched-on"

‘Challenging stuff,’ my wife remarked, having alighted on the page of Paul Kingsnorth’s new novel in which a character named el supplies several stream-of-consciousness paragraphs about a ritual dance featuring ‘big Birds runnin round Pole and fyr and mam and mother and all womyn and these big things all hummin’. Dystopian, or by the time you reach the final paragraph, maybe only utopian, Alexandria turns out to be set in the East Anglian fens a millennium or so in the future. Here lurk the last tattered remnants of a self-sequestered religious cult, their numbers steadily depleted by marauding ‘stalkers’, their destiny ever more uncertain.

2 stars out of 5
Claire Allfree
13 Feb 2021

"a chilly vision of eco-dystopia and malevolent AI"

For all its mythic expansiveness, Alexandria is a claustrophobic novel. Its view of humanity as fatally hubristic and pathologically self-sabotaging is without consolation. Where does this leave the reader? Kingsnorth has one solution: in the final pages the novel’s many religious allusions coalesce in an affirmation of the Christian faith as the now-depleted Nitrians stand bathed in divine light. It’s an endnote of hope, but as the culmination of Kingsnorth’s thoughts on how we might imaginatively respond to the apocalypse, it has a taste of “it was all a dream” style fudge.

3 stars out of 5
Catherine Taylor
12 Feb 2021

"The final book in the acclaimed Buckmaster trilogy leaps in to the 31st century with the search for a fabled city"

If there is a nagging doubt about Alexandria it is with the gender essentialism that underpins the book — man is fire, woman is water, woman is seductress, man is seduced: each has their fixed place in the world. But as a story about human failure and enduring belief, it succeeds. Kingsnorth’s novel is both of time and out of time, and it posits some of the most urgent questions of this millennium: where are we going, and what will become of us.