Serpent’s Tail will publish Oana Aristide's debut novel Under the Blue as a lead title in March 2021.
Publisher Hannah Westland acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Sophie Scard at United Agents.
Written before the events of 2020, Under the Blue follows Harry, an artist who emerges from weeks of work alone to find a quiet London that has been almost entirely depopulated by a pandemic. With the help of two women he heads for Africa, to get as far away as possible from the nuclear power stations that are set to fail catastrophically. This narrative will come together with two computer scientists in the Arctic Circle who are educating Talos, an advanced AI program. Every week they feed him data and ask him to predict what will happen next to the human race, while debating why human life is sacred and the purpose for which he was built – to predict threats to human life to help us avoid them.
Westland said: "When I first read Under the Blue it blew me away as a remarkable act of imagination and philosophical enquiry, and about as far away from a likely reality as possible. Since then, of course, everything has changed. We never expected to be publishing this novel in the midst of a pandemic, but we believe readers will find echo, solace and provocation in Oana’s steady focus on our global predicament and how it might be faced. This thrilling novel deserves the widest readership and we can’t wait to bring it out into the world."
Aristide added: "My novel couldn't have found a better home than Serpent's Tail, a publisher who has always dared take on books that aren't easily classifiable."