Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
Future Friend is an engaging story that presents an imagined life 1,000 years from now and the contrasting way we existed in 2019. By 3020, the population has reached twenty-four billion. Chickens become militant and it is accepted as wrong to kill animals for food. Pigs are intelligent beings, some capable of winning a Nobel Prize!
People live indoors. The outside world is plagued by viruses, threatened by excessive heat and floods. The atmosphere is red. The inhabitants of this 3020 world are living beings combined with A1 computer like capabilities.
In this future world, Pip lives with her father Ivan, and mother Nina who are scientists. One of their achievements is a time travel facility. Through its portal, Pip is transported to 2019 and begins to sample life there. She befriends Rahul, who lives with his mother Prisha and father Sanjay.
2019 is very different. Real, not virtual, teachers. She goes to school with Rahul. Team football is great fun. Twenty-first century food does not agree with her. She is horrified by the awareness that pigs are made into sausages that humans consume.
Pip has come to realise she must return to her life in 3020 so she and the clever Rahul, with materials at hand, attempt to find the way this can be achieved.
Being a popular children’s author means that Baddiel makes a large toilet seat as a vital piece of equipment- a welcome factor, especially to young boys!
Neighbours close by, Gunther and Frank Frackle, are an hilarious pair who represent the ultra-right-wing members of the local community, ever vigilant conspiracy theorists. They rely on Secretopedia, an Internet source that supports their views on beliefs such as the flat earth, the moon landing, aliens and any other suspicious aspects of their lives.
Their exposing Pip as an Alien is one of the tense but funny episodes in this hugely entertaining book.
David Baddiel is a master of the neatly framed plot. In its 300 odd pages, many of the current problems the world faces are solved. The principal instrument in achieving this, especially rescuing the planet from the ravages of climate change, is Rahul, who, we learn, in his adult life becomes a great inventor. He was inspired and encouraged to follow this path by Pip when she briefly visited in 2019.
Baddiel’s light-hearted touch softens the impact of big issues like the virus threat by writing a thoroughly enjoyable book that has so much that would appeal to primary school readers aged eight or over.
Life in a world a thousand years hence could be beneficial in its coping with an altered planet in innovative and ingenious ways, but our century is depicted in an attractive manner too. Pip loves the clear blue sky, the landscape with plants and trees, the freedom of movement undaunted by fear of catastrophe.
Future Friend is a tribute to friendship, science, and relegates groundless beliefs to the realms of comedy. It is a cheerful encouragement to tackle problems. As a venture into science fiction, it has so much to entertain: talking animals, clones, and of course, time travel.
It is a thrilling, highly relevant way to spend hot summer hours in the holidays.
by David Baddiel
$14.99; 366 pages.