Nick Holdstock’s Quarantine, set in the aftermath of a pandemic, is built around phrases that might once have summoned dystopian strangeness: ‘testing positive’, ‘mutation rate’. Lukas, one of two narrators, lives in a camp for infected people in an otherwise vaccinated world. The camp is an ecosystem of dirt, drugs and never-quite-convincing quantities of sex.
A former philosophy student, Lukas offers some clanging assessments of his situation – the countryside during the pandemic is ‘more Hobbes than Rousseau’ – and essayistic speeches. His story is interleaved with that of Rebecca, an epidemiologist, who is more astringent but ultimately more interesting company. Her voice approaches the