Survivors of a ravaged future Earth must contend with murderous pirates and ruthless politics in Fields’ sci-fi debut.
Aron was on vacation when a devastating storm rendered Earth mostly uninhabitable. Now, 12 years later, the majority of people remaining have taken refuge in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. A reconnaissance ship from Mars arrives, and its crew says that they can transport a limited number of the survivors to the off-world colony. But the earthlings must decide who gets to go, and a committee formed for that purpose, the Council of Thirteen, makes devious choices. Fields’ post-apocalyptic novel, set well into the 22nd century, reveals a grim but lucid glimpse of the future, and genre fans will appreciate its descriptions of ultramodern technology such as data mats (computers that can be folded and stuffed into a pocket) and helojumpers (“flying, glass-bottomed boats”). But the author’s greatest achievement is his convincing portrayal of a futuristic world. Aron’s first-person narration doesn’t lay out Earth’s history but merely acknowledges events in passing, such as the gas crisis of 2021, and his metaphors are apposite, as when he describes being hit emotionally “with the impact of a helojumper slamming into the ocean.” Fields adds scenes and situations of increasing intensity as people inexplicably resign from the Council of Thirteen and the president, Ahmed, replaces them with his supporters; pirate raids become deadlier and more frequent; and an upsurge in sudden weather shifts brings snow mixed with rain during the day and blistering heat at night. The protagonist’s cynicism and apathy can sometimes border on nihilism, as when he questions whether life is any better on Mars, suggests that humankind’s extinction is imminent and impatiently awaits his own death. But such drastic attitudes make it all the more rewarding when he later becomes the protector of a friend’s 10-year-old son, William, and is determined to see that the boy prospers on the Mars colony.
A startling sci-fi examination of humanity’s capacity for cruelty in a remarkable dystopian setting.