Rebecca Priestley

End Times

210mm x 138mm
Publication date:
12 October 2023

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Longlisted for the 2024 General Nonfiction Award at the Ockham NZ Book Awards

In the late 1980s, two teenage girls found refuge from a world of cosy conformity, sexism and the nuclear arms race in protest and punk. Then, drawn in by a promise of meaning and purpose, they cast off their punk outfits and became born-again Christians. Unsure which fate would come first – nuclear annihilation or the Second Coming of Jesus – they sought answers from end-times evangelists, scrutinising friends and family for signs of demon possession and identifying EFTPOS and barcodes as signs of a looming apocalypse.

Fast forward to 2021, and Rebecca and Maz – now a science historian and an engineer – are on a road trip to the West Coast. Their journey, though full of laughter and conversation and hot pies, is haunted by the threats of climate change, conspiracy theories, and a massive overdue earthquake.

End Times interweaves the stories of these two periods in Rebecca’s life, both of which have at heart a sleepless fear of the end of the world. Along the way she asks: Why do people hold on to some ideas but reject others? How do you engage with someone whose beliefs are wildly different from your own? And where can we find hope when it sometimes feels as if we all live on a fault line that could rupture at any moment?

End Times is an urgent and important book about much more than coal, climate change and Christianity. It is a profound act of listening – an insightful, compassionate, and surprisingly funny exploration of where we have come from, how we got here, and where to now. It is also a story of a magnificent friendship. I have read nothing quite like it. At once terrifying and in some deeply human way, hopeful. Rebecca Priestley is our Rebecca Solnit but funny. I love this book so much.' Ingrid Horrocks, author of Where We Swim

'A rich, honest, vivid book. Priestley’s patience with people achieves something invaluable; it evokes empathy but is also a stark reminder that this is no laughing matter. I loved reading about the things, landmarks and places I know, and I loved reading about granite. I saw the land and road she travelled, I saw these people and was deeply engaged in the kōrero she had with them.' Becky Manawatu, author of Auē

'End Times succeeds at something I have seen many books aspire to but rarely achieve: stimulating, open and honest conversations.' —Tim Scott, Otago Daily Times

'I’d been looking forward to this book since Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica, which delivered to my imagination clear images of what it’s like to exist as a person on that great, white, vulnerable continent. End Times carries the same sensitivity to the big but fragile natural world. It’s also characteristically funny with wry observations of Priestley’s younger self and her earnest rebellions. An ode to friendship as much as it is an ode to timely and sensible anxieties.' —Claire Mabey, The Spinoff

'An empathetic look at what others believe when those views oppose your own, and how empathy could be the first step in bridging those divides.' —Rebecca Styles, NZ Listener

'It's gentle; she's patient; it's also funny; it's wonderful.' —Carole Beu, RNZ

'I'm convinced that Rebecca Priestley is one of New Zealand's greatest writers and must be protected at all costs! Her musings in End Times achieve a great balance of immeasurable intelligence and a deep empathy.' —Staff picks, Scorpio Books

'A unique and very personal journey within a journey, with a lot to say about human connection and friendship, belief and what drives it, and how to orient yourself toward a fragile and threatened world.' —Sam Finnemore, Kete Books

'Lived experience, deftly woven in with the disinformation she now sees playing out around her, gives her an empathy—and the womens’ friendship a resilience.' —Catherine Woulfe, NZ Geographic 

Rebecca Priestley is professor of Science in Society at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington. She was science columnist for the NZ Listener for six years and is the author or editor of six previous books, including the critically acclaimed Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica (2019). She is the winner of the Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize (2009) and the Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize (2016) and a member of the Melting Ice, Rising Seas team who won the Prime Minister’s Science Prize (2019). In 2018 she was made a Companion of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. She has an undergraduate degree in geology, a PhD in the history of science and an MA in creative writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters.

Cover: Todd Atticus

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