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Three Degrees and Gone
The year is 2087. Climate change has resulted in coastal flooding. Vast numbers of U.S. citizens have been displaced and are migrating inland, many living poorly in tent and shack cities. Some emigrate to Canada, both legally and illegally. This book follows members of three families as they illegally cross the border, some successfully and some unsuccessfully, past the high tech border wall that Canada has built and past the drones that constantly patrol the border.
In the global warming–ravaged America of 2086, jobs are scarce, tracking implants are mandatory, and desperate migrants are smuggled into Canada—now an isolationist, right-wing nation with a Trumpian border wall. Three families meet while traveling north for better lives. Bored Texas housewife Dana Wilkins is saddled with her abusive, philandering husband, Frank; they hope to give their daughter, Embrey, a chance at college. Georgia hurricane survivor Harry Sykes and his son, Georgia Tech student Jamie, are escaping Atlanta, which has been overwhelmed with refugees from Florida. Chicago socialite Cynthia Sherwood and her 12-year-old daughter, Adeliza, are fleeing Cynthia’s husband, Desmond. They band together against thieves, Desmond’s quest to bring Cynthia and Adeliza home, and Frank’s destructive selfishness. When their border crossing goes bad, the refugees must decide whether to make another attempt or turn back.

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.

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: -
Editing: C
Marketing copy: B-