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Sarah Lahey
Nostalgia Is Heartless
Sarah Lahey, author

Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

Earth, 2050. Pregnant, unemployed, and living back home with her father, climate scientist Quinn Buyers wonders how she got to this point in her life. Her famous scientist mother is mysteriously missing, the planet is at risk from a massive solar storm, the Transhumans want to take a colony to Titan, and her assisted living companion, a robotic meerkat, is showing clear signs of anxiety and depression. But her biggest challenge is her partner. How can she reconcile her long-distance relationship with this reserved, enigmatic cyborg? The sequel to Sarah Lahey's debut novel and the second book in the Heartless Series, Nostalgia is Heartless delves into the world of the near future, exploring a society on the brink of climate catastrophe. This time, Quinn's adventures take her across the globe to Antarctica . . . where it rains all day, every day. Readers will delight in following Quinn's journey as she races to save her family, her planet, and--hopefully--her love life.
The second installment of Lahey's blessedly weird near-future sci fi series picks up with Quinn Buyers, an unemployed climate scientist now pregnant and living with her doomsday-prepper father. All she wants is some peace and quiet to try to figure out her life—and to search for her mother, who may have discovered the secret to time travel before disappearing. That peace is shattered by a shadowy organization run by Quinn’s ex-fiance, intent on using her mother's research to power a way off the dying planet. Accompanied by a pair of slightly paranormal teens, an existential AI in the shape of a meerkat, and her cyborg boyfriend, Quinn travels to Antarctica to find the truth—about her mother, about time travel, and about herself.

Despite the grim premise, the quirky characters lend a whimsical feel to the story, and Lahey is clever and inventive in imagining new technology while still dealing with relatable problems—the self-driving car won't let you leave without giving it a rating, and a hologram call still has trouble connecting. Some cultural aspects of this engaging story’s future may strike readers as discordant (three decades into the future, the movie Frozen still has cultural relevance, but people must explain the name "Einstein”), and the urgency of climate change see-saws: the planet’s lost clouds and the Antarctic ice shelf, but the main characters’ lives seem insulated from the consequences. The final revelation of who has been using the time portal, while not out of place thematically, is somewhat abrupt.

Lahey does, however, compellingly showcase 2050s technology, from homemade telekinesis machines to antigravity trucks. The plot builds slowly but deliberately, ratcheting up the interpersonal stakes before escalating sharply into a gunfight and an exciting high-tech chase that all culminates in a wilderness survival trek. Alternately funny and philosophical, this story paints a vivid, high-tech world while still packing an emotional punch.

Takeaway: This near-future story of a world ravaged by climate change will delight lovers of both romance and action sci-fi.

Great for fans of: Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A