Readers seeking nuanced characterization may struggle with characters who habitually explain the world more than they live in it—most notably Embrey and Adeliza, who talk like small adults. Well-meant but clumsy ideas about race and women’s self-image, social roles, and aspirations are often put in the mouths of black and female characters. Desmond is black and Cynthia is white; the scene where he explains to her that he only finds black women sexually exciting is particularly awkward.
These flaws aside, this idea-packed futuristic road trip will appeal strongly to fans of classic science fiction. There are detailed descriptions of climate change and future engineering projects. Willis’s Canada is a clear, direct allegory for the modern U.S., and it’s not an appealing place; the deep sympathy for modern migrants (“You think the Mexicans felt this vulnerable seventy years ago?” Embrey wonders) will touch readers’ hearts. The book’s pragmatic, sincere pacifism holds significant appeal for those looking for hard science fiction without militarism or a right-wing slant.
Takeaway: Future technology and climate migration combine in this empathetic refugee novel.
Great for fans of Kim Stanley Robinson, Madeline Ashby, Robert Charles Wilson.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: B-