(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

This is a wonderful book for anyone who wishes to comprehend the astonishing changes that the world is going through at this point in history. Wright and McManus are extensively traveled foreign correspondents; they understand how local events and trends fit into global patterns, and in a mixture of anecdotes and incisive interpretation they convey the excitement, the dangers, and the promise of the global transition that we are witnessing. What emerges again and again is how paradoxical the “new world order” is. This is most noticeable, perhaps, in the tensions between the strong push towards greater unity, as a result of the globalization of the world economy, and an equally powerful rush to fragmentation, as previously homogenous nation-states break down and local, ethnic identities reassert themselves. How the world deals with these two contradictory forces will be one indicator of whether the next decade, and beyond, will mark further advances or a lapse back into chaos. However, this is only one part of the dazzling mosaic of issues that Wright and McManus present. They point out the dangers in a world that reflects a growing North/South, rich/poor divide, and in which weapons of mass destruction are increasingly finding their way into the hands of Third World countries. They sound the alarm bells about AIDS, rising crime, a floodtide of refugees, and a population explosion that is crippling major cities worldwide. They hold out hope, too, in the concept of the empowerment of the individual, which can be seen in the worldwide growth of democracy over the last decade, although they also point out how fragile these new democracies are, likely to be overwhelmed by social and economic forces they cannot control.