One day, without warning, the whole of Britain turns superstitiously against technology and millions of people flee the country leaving the cities and much of the countryside deserted. Those who remain sink deeper into a primitive mindset: anything technological is attacked as witchcraft and certain individuals are gifted with the power to manipulate the weather so Britain enjoys perfect summers, rich harvests and crisp winters.
The rest of the world is unaffected but is unable to take any action: any agents they send in are attacked as witches or go native, succumbing to the same hatred of technology as the remaining islanders. The Britons who remain become more and more isolated in small communities, lacking anything more modern than a horse and cart to take them further afield. At the same time, certain people are less affected and are ready to use the technology which lies rusting and unused around them, although risking being accused of witchcraft.
The three stories were written in reverse chronological order: The Weathermonger was the first to be published, a standalone story involving a resourceful brother and sister. It introduces the problem of the Changes while it leads us to its solution. Heartsease takes place when the effects of the Changes are well established and concerns the efforts of a boy and girl cousin to smuggle away an American agent who’s been attacked as a witch. And The Devil’s Children tells the story of a girl who’s separated from her family and left behind in the chaotic days after the Changes take hold; she serves as the means to unite suspicious and fearful English villagers with the foreign but competent Sikh community.
The series sensibly doesn’t over-analyse. (Why don’t people tear off their synthetic fabrics? Or demolish their modern houses? Do they still wear glasses?). It’s more interested in exploring the human relations which result when you take away the elements of our everyday life which we’ve taken for granted for so long and which, perhaps, engross us more than we realise.
Tim Golden is a computer programmer living in London. He is also the editor of goodtoread.org.