The first of a near-future series about an uneasy balance between city and country.
Sisters Lou and Coryn Williams live in Seacouver, a vast megacity that incorporates Seattle, Vancouver, and the small cities in between. Desperately unhappy with city life for some ill-defined reason, their parents kill themselves in a mutual suicide pact, landing the teenagers in an orphanage (although the megacity is technologically advanced, their social services seem primitive). Lou is overjoyed when she scores a plum opportunity as a rewilder, a rehabilitator of environmental damage outside the city, but Coryn is devastated to lose her only family. For two years, Lou sends infrequent, blandly cheerful emails to Coryn. Determined to find both her sister and the truth, Coryn departs Seacouver as soon as she comes of age, accompanied by her personal robot Paula and a dangerous level of naiveté about the world Outside. On her journey, she encounters dangerous weather, some new friends, opportunists who want to kill her and steal her valuable robot, and zealots of various stripes and unclear motivations who pose a danger both to the city and the barely rewilded landscape. Cooper (Spear of Light, 2016, etc.) is an unfortunate devotee of the tell-not-show school. Key scenes happen offstage. The supposedly smart and seasoned Lou never realizes that her bosses are manipulating her into rash action. Everyone says how stifling it is to live in the city, how flawed it is, how hard it is to fit in, and how great the divide is between rich and poor, but the reader doesn’t spend enough substantive time in the city to see much evidence for these. Various factions jockey for power, but their motivations seem both too simple and too opaque. Perhaps more answers and complexity await in future volumes, but it doesn't seem promising.
The potential for some interesting ideas languishes in a half-built world populated with barely sketched characters.