Arcadia plot confusion
May 14, 2016 9:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm a bit confused by the ending/overall plot of Iain Pears' Arcadia. (Major spoilers abound after the "more inside" so click at your peril!)

I enjoyed this novel and I *think* I have a good grasp on what happened, but I'm a bit confused at how it all wraps up together. So, in brief (last warning on the spoilers!):

- There is only one universe, obviously, with time travel.
- Everything is the same as "our world" until Beijing in 2018, when the nuclear bomb that Oldmanter sends through explodes and presumably causes the nuclear war that is the "Exile."
- Then after a two-hundred year period of the "Exile" there is the "Return" (which, by the way, seems optimistic; hasn't Pears seen the post-apocalyptic nightmare that is "Threads"?)
- This is subsequently followed by the utopia that is Anderwold, and obviously Emily Strang was sent forward from the time machine to this time, or at least shortly before the main Anderwold plot opens.

So far, so good. But it's obvious that the "Jack More dystopia" world takes place after 2018 (it's clear that the late 20th century is considered backwards and a long time ago) so wouldn't their sending back a nuclear bomb to 2018 both cause the Exile/Return/eventual Anderwold, but also mean that the dystopia couldn't have happened?

In other words, I don't understand when the dystopia has happened because the novel clearly seems to be our time>bomb>nuclear Exile>Return>development of Anderwold's utopia. The dystopia is pretty clearly (at least, to me) described as a logical continuation of the bad trends of our current world.

But maybe I'm totally missing something and it has to do with that Angela Meerson string analogy that I didn't totally get?

Also, what was with the fact at the end of chapter 62 that Persimmon's described socialist society is basically the same as the Jack More dystopia? Was that supposed to tell me something?

I did really like it! But my brain hurts a little from thinking this through.
posted by andrewesque to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and I obviously meant Anterwold, not Anderwold (I hate spelling mistakes...)
posted by andrewesque at 9:21 PM on May 14, 2016

Apologies if this is obvious, but have you looked at the app that was designed along with the novel? It lets you follow individual characters through their own timeline.

One possible inference from the app, though it is not the only one, is that there is no objective "correct" chronology. The correct chronology depends on the character whose point of view you adopt...
posted by willbaude at 10:24 PM on May 14, 2016

And here is Iain Pears himself on the use of the app to decide which events cause what.
posted by willbaude at 10:27 PM on May 14, 2016

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