The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing is written on a voyage home from the Chatham Islands.
The ten islands that form the Chatham Islands have belonged to New Zealand since 1842. They are located approximately 800km east of New Zealand. Only the two main islands are inhabited. The present inhabitants have European, Maori and Moriori origins.
William R. Broughton visited the largest island in 1791 in HMS Chatham, giving the island its current name.
Much of Letters from Zedelghem takes place in Bruges, nicknamed the 'Venice of the North' for its picturesque canals. Bruges is the largest city in the province of West Flanders, where some of the worst fighting of the First World War took place.
Today, just over a hundred thousand people live in Bruges. The medieval centre has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Neerbeke is a fictional village.
Greenwich is known for its open parks, palatial landscapes, Georgian estates, royal connections and intellectual heritage. Positioned on the South Bank of the River Thames, and therefore the starting point for many an historical sea journey, Greenwich boasts the Royal Observatory, the Royal Naval College and the National Maritime Museum.
Half-Lives takes place in Buenas Yerbas, a fictional district in California, the most populous state in the USA. California owes much of its present wealth to the nineteenth-century Gold Rush, thus providing a link with The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing.
Most US nuclear power plants are found along the east coast, but Mitchell chooses to locate his fictional HYDRA on the west coast in California. Nuclear reactors require huge amounts of water as part of their cooling process, so they are often located along coastlines. Almost 20% of electricity in the US is produced by its 104 nuclear reactors. More are planned. (Click for more info.)
This section of the novel is set in the 1970s, by which time the anti-nuclear movement in the U.S. had built up a great deal of momentum. Those who protested against nuclear power plants generally did so for the following reasons: 1.) The release of heat into the environment would damage local ecosystems 2.) Fear of radioactive emissions during normal operations 3.) Fear of a major accident involving a massive release of radiation. Protestors succeeded in preventing Pacific Gas and Electric from building the first commercially viable nuclear power plant in the USA in the early sixties, but failed to prevent the construction of the Humboldt Bay power plant (see picture) located, like the HYDRA reactor, on the Californian coastline. Protests were triggered all over the world following the accidents at Chernobyl (see bookmark p108) as well as at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania (1979). The Fukushima Daiichi disaster of 2011 has further set back the prospects of the nuclear industry.
Timothy Cavendish goes into exile in Hull.
Located at the edge of the Humber estuary, the City of Kingston-upon-Hull is a fishing port boasting the Humber Bridge (from which a legion of hapless folk jump each year), the po-faced poet of despair Philip Larkin, and the street brawling ex-Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
Hull is, perhaps unfairly, the butt of many an English joke and is known for its comparatively low standards of living; high crime, teenage pregnancy and unemployment rates; bleak urban landscape; and the stench of fish that permeates the air. It can claim pole position in that most venerable of publications Crap Towns: The 50 Worst Places To Live In The UK. Lying in his soiled cot, the infantilized Cavendish may have had time to reflect upon the irony that he is incarcerated within the city cradle of Britain's most famous civil rights campaigner, William Wilberforce.
Nea So Copros is based in present day South Korea, and many of the characteristics of Nea So Copros are nightmarish exaggerations of South Korea’s current system of aggressively capitalist government. Between 1960 and 1990, South Korea boasted the fastest growing economy in the world, and it was recently recognised as the world’s most innovative country. The Republic of Korea was at one stage infamous for its system of crony capitalism in which vast family businesses like Samsung, LG and Hyundai were state sponsored. Indeed in Nea So Copros, state and business work hand in glove to create a murderous 'corpocracy'.
Perhaps the most alarming parallel is the fact that the South Korean government once sponsored its own revolutionary movement. By this means they were able to monitor seditious activity, as well as consolidate support by unifying citizens against a common enemy.
Much of the action takes places in the capital Seoul and South Korea's second largest city Pusan. The corpocratic hierarchy of Nea So Copros is presented in diagrammatic form below.
Sloosha's Crossing an' Ev'rythin' After is based in the Hawaii Islands, particularly the largest of the eight main islands, often known as the Big Island. David Mitchell visited and researched the island with the aid of a travel scholarship from the Society of Authors. This section of the book pays close attention to the geography of the eastern side of the Big Island, and readers can trace Zachry's movements on google maps or the annotated map below. I have also tried to locate some of the more important locations within the bookmarks.
Hawaii is the newest of the US states and the only one composed of a group of islands. Its beautiful scenery, tropical climate, active volcanoes and intriguing wildlife make it a popular tourist destination as well as a draw for scientists of many hues.
Europeans first graced the archipelago when Captain Cook discovered the islands in 1778. His second visit in 1779 proved fatal: he was killed by natives in a skirmish over a stolen boat. The native population dwindled when visitors and traders introduced the usual array of European diseases. The islands retain their own language, although English is used alongside it. The current demographic of 1.3 million is mixed, although the most dominant groups are white Americans, Asian Americans and white Europeans. This section of the novel draws on the oral tradition, a return to the days of pre-civilization when the spoken word took precedence over the written.
1.) Mauna Kea (see bookmark 272) the mountain which Zachry and Meronym climb to discover the observatories (see bookmark p.289)
2.) Waipio Valley (see bookmark p.249) through which runs the River Waipo. It is in this valley that the Kona murder Zachry’s father and kidnap his brother.
3.) Kona territory.
4.) Mountain Kohala - (see bookmark p.251) where Zachry herds his goats. Zachry crosses the razorback of the mountain to escape from the Kona and deliver Meronym to Ikat’s finger.
5.) Hilo - site of a different tribe.
6.) Honokaa – site of the annual intertribal barter. Also site of the Kona attack, where Zachry is captured.
7.) Roughly the position of Waimea Town, from where Zachry and Meronym begin their ascent of Mauna Kea.
8.) Nine Valleys. Home to the Zachry’s people, the valleysman. So called by Zachry because there are nine individual valleys which cut into the land on the northeastern side of the island.
9.) Kukuihaele – through which the valleysman pass on their way to the barter in Honokaa, and where the Kona gathered before their assault on the Nine Valleys.
10.) Ikat’s Finger - Difficult to see on this map, but the probably location of the spit of land for which Zachry and Meronym are headed after the Kona attack.