Jump on the tube at South Kensington, take the District Line to Victoria, then the Southeastern train and within half-an-hour you’ll land in SE15, Peckham. It’s very different to South Kensington. To paint a picture, a friend of mine referred to his commute from the South London district into SW7 as, “a step through a time machine.” Much like other areas of Greater London, Peckham continues to transform, as new buildings and people take up residence there, whilst South Kensington firmly retains its antiquated style. SW7 is fondly recognised for this; whilst Peckham is often derisively characterised by the council estate – a post-war brutalist architecture which forms the backdrop to Femi Fadugba’s, The Upper World.
In this heart-wrenching thriller, we follow the narratives of two teenagers, Esso and Rhia, separated by a generation, whose lives are haunted by a single bullet fired in a Peckham alleyway. In Esso, we have an introspection into a stereotype that plagues these estates, a teen who is caught in the midriffs of gang-violence and in Rhia, we observe the torments of an orphan with a turbulent life in foster care. Femi does justice to the tribulations of both narratives in his storytelling, but what makes this book incredibly unique is his deep explorations of science and philosophy that mould the outcome of the story. The Upper World takes its name from the mystic realm that Esso transports to during traumatic events, where he has glimpses into his future and past. Here Femi delivers an education on free will, space-time geometry and Einstein’s special theory of relativity through philosophical allegories and annotated derivatives of the equations. The sequel promises an exploration of quantum mechanics and the multiverse theory which are some of the most fascinating theories found in physics.
Femi has lived in Peckham; he’s lived on a council estate, and he’s studied physics at Oxford. Few have the credentials and penmanship of Femi to blend these themes so well in a single novel. In all my years I have never read a novel like this, so I was delighted to learn that Netflix have begun working on an adaptation starring BAFTA award winner Daniel Kaluuya!
Here Femi delivers an education on free will, space-time geometry and Einstein’s special theory of relativity through philosophical allegories and annotated derivatives of the equations.
The Upper World
- Femi Fadugba