“It was perfectly clear how humans had reached this state of affairs, and it was perfectly clear how it was all going to end up,” writes Simon, one of the lovers. Blending personal narrative, dystopian speculative fiction, and the explanatory clarity of a first-rate science essayist, Simon’s lengthy letter exemplifies Brown’s project: it doesn’t just imagine a fallen future, it does the work to show how humanity got there, with special attention paid to the workings of the brain.
“Essentially,” Simon notes, after a dazzling passage digging into the neuroscience of Trumpism, “they’re not smart enough to realize they’re dumb.” The letters comprising the novel teems with insights about consciousness, the brain, AI, the environment, and life itself, plus incisive jokes, jolting revelations and connections, and flashes of love, pain, and deeply human earthiness: “I was a pelvis man. And she had a pelvis to die for,” notes David. While the lovers’ accounts of their relationships at times are touching, readers should not expect traditional plotting and pacing. These are scientists’ pained, illuminating meditations.
Takeaway: Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Paul Auster’s In the Country of Last Things.
Great for fans of: Illuminating letters from future scientists about how humanity let the Earth collapse.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+