Fictional post-apocalyptic scenarios usually feature a return to wholesale barbarity and monosyllabic heroes struggling for survival. Clare Morrall’s first foray into futuristic fiction is more sinister and unsettling than brutal. The Polanski family live in isolation in a tower block outside the walled-off and deserted city centre of Birmingham. Occasionally they glimpse fleeing figures. Years before, along with devastating floods, there was a virus, Hoffman’s, that wiped out most of the population and rendered many of the survivors infertile. Now the young are a precious resource, and Popi and Moth Polanski are taking no risks with their four: Roza, Boris, Delphine and little Lucia.
They’re not quite living off the grid: the internet’s still up and running and 22-year-old Roza works from home for a Chinese company. The government and the remainder of the verifiable population have settled on higher ground in Brighton. The