Written by: Rebecca Priestley
Te Herenga Waka University Press
Reviewed by: Courtney Rose Brown
End Times explores the recurring dread of the end of the world. It flips between New Zealand in the 80s and the early 2020s (set post-COVID, but pre-Cyclone Gabrielle).
End Times follows teenage girls Rebecca and Maz as they try to cope with knowing that the future is uncertain. With an uproar of political unrest, the friends find themselves in the punk scene during the Springbok Tour, the nuclear age, and the Homosexual Law Reform Act. However, they leave their punk youth behind as they step through the church door, rebelling the only way they could against their feminist mothers. This time is reflective as they test out “lukewarm Christianity” and explore the need to anchor themselves in something.
Nowadays, Maz is an engineer and Rebecca a science historian. Rebecca is worried about global warming and it’s all she can think about. The book is interspersed with facts about climate change, which are interesting at first. They provide insight into what damage can be done even with renewable energy and the risks we currently face, especially in New Zealand. There’s huge value in knowing the history of the land, what can happen to Earth, and the current state of things. However, the facts quickly become heavy-handed. Imbuing a personal storyline with journalistic intent and switching between the two can be jarring and narratively confusing.
Rebecca tries to find ties to the land, to the country, to the future. She tracks down her maternal family history while she also interviews locals about COVID and climate change. She wonders, when was the best time for humans? Back then, we knew our children would have brighter futures even if our own lives were difficult. Now that we have access to more information, we have better lives but must face the uncomfortable fact that the next generation will not.
End Times is a great resource and Rebecca Priestley has incredible insight into climate change and how it can impact us, but it does build anxiety without providing much hope or many solutions.