Landfill Mountains is at once a sprawling dystopian novel, a fantasy in both genre and the storytelling, and a cautionary tale of global warming and human selfishness. I haven’t read climate fiction before this, but I will certainly be on the look out from now on. Rab Ferguson submerses the reader in a post-apocalyptic version of society, where people from generations past carelessly disregarded warnings of climate change, pollutants, and waste. And now…well, now the younger generation is dealing with those repercussions.
That brings us to our main character, Joe. Sixteen years old and angry at his parents for leaving him with a world that is meant to swallow him up and provide nothing but constant labor and stress. I really enjoyed Joe’s character, and while I grew frustrated with some of his decisions and though processes, it fit perfectly with the age and lifestyle. We rarely read teenaged characters that are just that: teenaged characters. I appreciated the realism in how Joe approached the world, his family, and the other characters.
Aside from living in a world filled with trash and a lack of natural resources – we’re talking excessive sun exposure, drought, infertile land – there exists the common thread of the persistence of humanity. Landfill Mountains is a story of survival and resistance in the face of doom and blight. It is about how people not only handle their present, but how they reconcile the past and learn from it to move into the future.
My favorite thing about this amazing story was Joe’s grandfather – the storyteller. Within this dystopian fiction is a thread of fantasy and magic. Joe’s grandfather shares very classic fairytale retellings, ever-changing based on the situation and who is listening. Each one is at its core (as all fairytales are) a lesson, whether in morals or actions. These fantastical stories connect fantasy and reality and offer a really unique genre-blending twist to Ferguson’s own storytelling.
My second favorite aspect about this book was the Witch. I won’t dive into it so as to not spoil the story, but I have always loved the idea of having strange, reclusive people being spun into someone fantastical or terrifying. The old woman who lives in the ratty house could be a poor widow or an evil sorceress. Landfill Mountains keeps those lines just thin enough to keep you constantly wondering how much is a fairytale and how much is reality.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable book. It was a slow-burn, but worth it once it started to build. The plot itself is complex but doesn’t necessarily need to be delved into to follow. Because of the interwoven genre-blending and stories, it can be difficult to follow if you don’t end on a good stopping point…but then again, the chapters are just long enough to provide easy places to pause and resume.
Landfill Mountains reminded me a lot of the movie Big Fish, where the father has told his son grandiose tales of his adventures only for the son to find that they weren’t made up as he suspected but exaggerated to make the story spectacular. Ferguson uses this same tactic with the grandfather’s stories and Joe’s experiences out in the world. I think it is absolutely perfect and such a unique way of telling a story.
For those who enjoy realistic fiction with doses of fantasy and whimsy, this book is for you. There are so many aspects to it, that it is possible to name a million genres and themes and still not catch them all. Well worth the read. With unique storytelling and powerful messaging, Landfill Mountains is a must read for those who like original dystopian settings, fantastical elements, and unique storytelling.