In Collier’s debut sci-fi novel, set in the mid-22nd century, a Kentucky farm family is changed forever when a strange object lands on their property, promising a solution to the urgent problem of climate change.
In 2147, advanced computers and robots do all the labor in the developed world, where many people receive an automatic wage stipend and the average human life span is 92.4 years. But the planet is also beset by disastrous climate change, which has caused oceans to engulf Florida as well as other low-lying territories and nations. Meanwhile, impoverished countries, such as India and Bangladesh, confront famine, flood, and refugees. One day, a softball-sized, glowing orb settles on the family farmstead of the Hickory family in Bourbon County, Kentucky. First police, then scientists and the military arrive to behold the miraculous visitor. After 8-year-old Jillian Hickory touches the orb, she’s not only cured of her cerebral palsy—she also becomes the orb’s voice. Through her, the entity states that humankind is doomed to a slow death due to the rising temperatures but that technology to limit and reverse the damage of high carbon-dioxide levels is available—if we can handle it. Meanwhile, media representatives and messianic-cult pilgrims invade the Hickory homestead; the latter are mostly Greco-Roman pagan Earth-spirit worshipers. Collier embeds a great deal of future forecasting in this straightforward, rather no-frills tale of benign first contact. The author’s narrative voice is instructive but never hectoring or alarmist about climate change, and it remains sure-footed throughout. That said, he often interrupts the flow for short sidebars on future technology, such as human-implanted cellphone devices. In the end, however, he ably achieves a blend of popular science, science fiction, and human-scale characterization, which the late Carl Sagan attempted with mixed results in 1985’s Contact.
A low-key tale of the future that’s somewhat didactic but generous in spirit.