Author envisions dystopia with Saskatchewan as the setting

An imagined future, set in Saskatchewan, examines a dystopian world from a Canadian perspective.

Author Erin Bow offers a Canadian take on dystopia

Author Erin Bow has written two books for young adults based in Saskatchewan. (

Saskatchewan has a reputation for being flat and after harvest much of the province may look pretty barren.

So it might not be hard to picture Saskatchewan as the setting for a post-apocalyptic thriller.

Erin Bow is the author of two young adult novels set in the province. The novels tell the tale of a dystopian future ravaged by climate change and war.

It's more interesting to me to have it be flat and endless and abandoned.- Erin Bow

Her first book, The Scorpion Rules, won the Canadian Library Association's 2016 book of year for young adults.

Tuesday was the release of its sequel, The Swan Riders.

"My books take place 500 years into the future and humanity's been through a really bad patch because the ice-caps have all melted, which leads to the displacement of millions upon billions of people and famines and wars, " Bow said on Tuesday. "But fortunately our robot overlords are there to save us from ourselves."

In Bow's imagined future, in order to maintain peace, every ruler must surrender a child as a hostage to a central system.

Those children are raised in compounds in neutral ground, which happens to be Saskatchewan.

"[It's] in the middle of nowhere," she said. "They're treated pretty well but they're also the first people to die if their countries go to war."

Bow said she chose Saskatchewan for the setting of her books because she is familiar with the terrain, having been raised on a farm in South Dakota.

"I'm a prairie girl at heart," she said. "That landscape is very much my landscape. And I always wanted to set a book on the Prairies."

Canadian take on dystopia

Bow, who is now based in Ontario, has lived in Canada for 20 years and wanted a non-American setting for a dystopian world.

"A lot of American dystopians are 'Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness' and everybody's trying to be the best free person they can be," she noted. "This dystopian is 'Peace, Order and Good Government.' It's what happens if someone takes that idea way too far. It's a real Canadian feeling."

Author Erin Bow says Saskatchewan's landscape is an ideal backdrop for her novels, set 500 years in the future, about a post-apocalyptic world. ( Secara)

The Saskatchewan geography also plays a key role in much of the storytelling, she said.

"It's more interesting to me to have it be flat and endless and abandoned," she said, adding that her research was bolstered with some trips to the province.

"My exciting research for this book included a trip to the Saskatoon dump," she recalled. The landfill is a setting for scavengers. "The cities have long since fallen into dust. But, for example, there's more copper in a landfill than there is in a copper mine, so they're out there mining it."

The sequel is now available from a variety of bookstores.

With files from CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition