THREE DEGREES AND GONE by J. Stewart Willis

THREE DEGREES AND GONE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As climate change turns the United States into a storm-ravaged swamp in the late 21st century, three sets of refugees attempt an unauthorized border crossing into Canada in Willis’ (Deadly Highway, 2018, etc.) post-apocalyptic tale.

In 2086, most of Florida and New Orleans no longer exist, thanks to rising sea levels. Georgia swells with homeless people, and waves of migrants struggle north to Canada, where right-wingers in the Ottawa government have tried locking down the border. Texas, a fetid bayou, is where the Wilkins family dwells, safe but discontented in domed, bleak corporate oil-company housing. They’re surprised when beer-drinking, abusive patriarch Frank Wilkins agrees to leave for Canada for a fresh start; in truth, he just wants to rejoin his younger mistress, who moved there. Divorced Savannah accountant Harry Sykes, his house ruined in a hurricane, embezzles from a disaster relief fund so that he and his college-age son can flee north. In corrupt Chicago, Cynthia “Cyndie” Sherwood is the pampered but fed-up trophy wife of a successful but philandering lawyer. Using his ties to the migrant-smuggling underworld, she joins a transport with her disgruntled, adolescent daughter in tow. The narrative brings the entire ensemble together for a harrowing exploit. In plain-spoken and quietly unnerving language, Willis effectively gives weight even to minor characters and sometimes manages to jolt readers with unexpected revelations. Readers who are looking for future-tech thrills or creatively envisioned ruins in an apocalyptic-dystopic milieu may be disappointed, though; aside from subcutaneous identification chips, self-driving autos, drones, and roll-up pocket computers, the sci-fi gimmickry quickly falls away. Instead, this is an elemental drama of fairly ordinary, often uncouth people on an arduous, quavering journey, pushed to their limits and crossing boundaries—of nations, of laws, of morality—for the sake of survival, or just plain selfishness.

An exceptional story of the future that quietly sounds an alarm about extremities of human behavior.

ISBN: 978-1-68433-361-5
Page count: 316pp
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2019




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